Friends for Life/Mental Health Committee

Chebucto Connections’ Mental Health Committee brings together professionals and community to address immediate and long-term mental health issues and concerns.  Mental Health continues to be a constant high priority for the Spryfield area community.

Our Committee has received grants from the Provincial Government and IWK to bring the world’s leading school-based anxiety prevention program, Friends for Life program to our elementary schools in the JL Family.

Developed from more than 10 years of comprehensive research and evaluation and used in schools throughout the world, FRIENDS is the only such program recognized by the World Health Organization.  Friends for Life is the world’s leading school-based anxiety prevention program that helps children and teenagers cope with feelings of fear, worry, and depression by building resilience and self-esteem and teaching cognitive and emotional skills in a simple, well-structured format.

Used in schools and clinics throughout the world, FRIENDS is the only childhood anxiety prevention program acknowledged by the World Health Organization and  has proven effective for up to 6 years after initial exposure.  For more information go to: ( and more information below)

About the Grants/Funding for our Friends for Life Initiative:
• Chebucto Connections was awarded a one-year grant through IWK’s Community Program Grant.
• Chebucto Connections was awarded a 3-year grant from the Province’s Mental Health and Addictions Grant Program: Enhancing Community Supports funded by Nova Scotia’s Mental Health and Addictions Strategy “Together We Can” which supports the longer-term vision of Friends for Life.Years
These grants will allow us to roll out the program to all children in Grades 3 and 4 in the JL Family of schools during the 2013-2014 school year and continuing on for three more years (other grades) providing the program to approximately 1500 children from September 2013 to June 2017

Mental Health, including anxiety and depression, has been cited as the number one concern by the Spryfield community for their children and youth. In response to this, the Spryfield and District Mental Health Planning group selected FRIENDS for Life because it was the single-most extensively evaluated program with a proven track record of success.  With two grants awarded by IWK and the Province of Nova Scotia, this project is supported by the highest level of government and health practitioners
 There are clear indicators articulating the urgency for early intervention in the research linking untreated chronic anxiety in children to depression and other mental health issues later in life. The IWK Mental Health and Addictions strategic plan, and the recent Provincial Mental Health plan also identify health promotion and early identification initiatives geared towards children and parents as crucial to systemically dealing with the prevalence of mental health problems in our communities.
So, in an effort to tackle these critical health issues, it is clear that we have to begin working with children at a younger age to identify/treat/prevent life-long issues, build awareness, reduce the costs/impact on our health providers and improve the quality of life for our community.
By increasing emotional resilience and promoting positive coping skills, we will be providing Spryfield children with key supports that will contribute to the mitigation of continued or future mental health issues. The Friends for Life program has successfully been implemented in the Dartmouth and Cole Harbour communities where populations who experience similar challenges to Spryfield exist.
Project Goals 
1. To teach children skills and strategies to cope with and mange feelings of fear, worry, and depression by building resilience and self-esteem and teaching cognitive and emotional skills in a simple, well-structured format.
2. To build parent awareness and provide them with resources and information that  will help them support their children to manage stress and anxiety.


Helping children deal with their fears


  • With understanding, patience, and reassurance you can help your child deal with her fears.
  • Never force your child to confront a fear before she’s ready.
  • Limit your child’s exposure to media that may create fears or make them even worse.

All children have fears; it’s a normal and healthy part of development. Things that seem harmless to adults may be scary for children. With understanding, patience, and reassurance you can help your child deal with her fears.

What a child fears usually depends on his age. Not all children are the same but it can help to understand some of these basic age differences:

Toddlers and pre-schoolers (2 to 4 years old)

  • Young children have vivid imaginations. They may find it hard to understand the difference between reality and fantasy.
  • By age 3 years, your child should be able to separate from you with little clinging or crying, and even the most fearful 3-year-old should adapt to a new situation within a few weeks. If not, mention it to her doctor.
  • A toddler will conjure up imaginary dangers out of shadows in a dark room or a mask covering a familiar face. Everyday situations may frighten him, such as bedtime, or going to the doctor. He may fear things that make a loud noise he can’t understand, like a vacuum cleaner or flushing toilet. To an adult, toddlers’ fears may be rational or irrational. Either way, it’s important to take your child’s fears seriously. Never make fun of her for being afraid.
  • At this age, children are concrete thinkers (they believe what you say in a literal way). They can become frightened by remarks or jokes from adults.  Be mindful what you say in front of your child.
  • Your child may have nightmares that wake him. If this happens, he’ll need your reassurance that the things he saw in his dream are not real. Talk to him and stay close until he falls asleep.
  • Night terrors are not the same as nightmares. Children who experience a night terror may wake up screaming and thrashing, but they are only partially awake and won’t necessarily be aware of your presence. They will not respond to you, and will usually fall back asleep without completely waking up. They won’t remember it the next day.

School-aged children (5 years and up)

  • Fears at this age tend to be more reality-based, such as storms, fires or injury. But the fear may be out of proportion to the likelihood of anything bad happening. As children learn more and begin to better understand what is really a danger and what is not, these fears generally go away.
  • Older children often worry about their parents’ marriage or health, and can easily exaggerate mild arguments or complaints that they hear. It’s best to have these kind of conversations in private, away from your children.
  • Being exposed to media can also cause fear in young children. Images from movies, video games, music videos, Internet websites, and even television news stories can be scary.
  • Older children may express their fears in ways other than crying. They may bite their nails, tremble, or suck their thumb, or “act out”. They won’t necessarily tell you they are afraid, so watch for signs.


What parents can do

  • Never force your child to confront a fear before she’s ready. Introduce her to a fearful situations in a slow, careful manner. Be sure to give lots of praise when she does something she used to be afraid of.
  • Always ask your child questions so you understand the situation and can be sure your child is safe.
  • Respect that the fear is real for your child. Don’t belittle your child or make fun of him.
  • Anticipate things that might be scary to your child and help her prepare. For example, let her know when you’ll be visiting a home with a big dog, or let her know when you’ll be leaving to go out.
  • You can help your child work through fears by reading books, making up stories, or acting out situations that deal with his fear. Drawing a monster can help him express his fears and learn to understand that they aren’t real.
  • Try to desensitize your child to the fearful object or situation. Using a toy fire engine may help to reduce the fear of the real one.
  • Help your child feel physically secure by hugging her, holding her hand, and being close. You can also teach her to take long, deep breaths to reduce her anxiety.
  • Encourage your child to share her fears with a doll or stuffed animal.
  • Try not to reinforce the fear by being scared yourself. Any sign that you may be worried about a situation can send a fearful child into a panic.
  • Limit your child’s exposure to media that may create fears or make them even worse including TV, movies, video games, Internet, and even printed materials. You can also help teach children good media habits, which will help them know the difference between what’s real and what’s not.

List of Helpful Books and Websites on Anxiety in Children:


This link takes you to a Chapter entitled: ‘The Worried Child’ where you can select from a list on the left-hand side of the page to read about:

  • Separation Worries
  • Specific Fears
  • Panic Responses
  • Frightening Memories or Thoughts
  • Fixed or Repetitive Behaviour
  • Social Anxiety
Although based out of BC, this link provides some helpful tips and information under: PARENTING – HELPING YOUR ANXIOUS CHILD OR TEEN.



1. Coping with Anxiety and Panic Attacks by Jordan Lee Rosen, Publishing Group; c2000 ISBN: 0823932028 HPL

2. Keys to Parenting Your Anxious Child by Katharina Manassis, Barrons Educational Series; c1996 ISBN: 0812096053

3. The Anxiety Cure for Kids: A Guide for Parents by E. D. Spencer, John Wiley & Sons; c2003
ISBN: 0471263613

4. Freeing Your Child from Anxiety: Powerful, Practical Solutions to Overcome Your Child’s Fears, Worries, and Phobias by T. E. Chansky, Broadway Books; c2004
ISBN: 0767914929

5. Seven Steps to Help Your Child Worry Less: A Family Guide by Kristy Agar, Specialty Press; c2003 ISBN: 1886941467

6. The Worried Child: Recognizing Anxiety in Children and Helping Them Heal by Paul Foxman, Hunter House; c2004 ISBN:0897934202

7. Your Anxious Child: Raising a Healthy Child in a Frightening World by Mary Ann Shaw, Tapestry Press; c2003 ISBN: 193081917X

8. Helping Your Anxious Child: A Step-By-Step Guide for Parents by Ronald Rapee,  New Harbinger Publications, c2000 ISBN: 1572241918

9. Your Anxious Child: How Parents and Teachers Can Relieve Anxiety in Children by John S.  Dacey, Jossey-Bass, c2001  ISBN: 0787960403

10.  School Phobia, Panic Attacks, and Anxiety in Children by Marianna Csoti, Jessica Kingsley Publishers (August 2003) ISBN: 1843100916

11.  Hole in One: A tale from the Iris the Dragon series. By Gayle Grass. 2008. A children’s book dealing with anxiety disorder.

12.  Help for Worried Kids: How Your Child Can Conquer Anxiety and Fear by Cynthia G. Last, Guilford Press (2005) ISBN: 1572308583

  1. 13.  Worried No More: Help and Hope for Anxious Children by Aureen Pinto Wagner, Lighthouse Press, 2nd edition (2005)

ISBN: 0967734797



Fighting Their Fears: Child and Youth Anxiety by Melanie Wood, National Film Board of Canada (2004) NFB ID# 113C9104249



Canadian Paediatric Society

The B.C. Friends for Life Website

Anxiety Disorders Association of America

Mental Health Services, Help and Support In Your Community


We add value to community by helping agencies address issues in mental health identified by the community as important.

We add value to community by helping children learn to manage feeling of fear, worry and anxiety by building resilience and self-esteem.