Gail Lalonde '01 to receive Alumni Award of Distinction
August 15, 2018
Gail Lalonde is one of those fortunate few who always knew what she wanted to be when she grew up.
“I honestly can't recall a time when I didn't want to be a social worker,” Lalonde says. “My mother instilled a deep belief in (my family) we should do all the good we can whenever we can. She set an incredible example in how she lived her life. Social work was a natural fit in supporting, advocating, and empowering others in some of life's most challenging situations.”
Lalonde has devoted her career to doing good for others as an educator and advocate for mental health within the education system. After more than 15 years working for the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB), the last four as the Mental Health Lead, she has recently accepted a new role as the Supervisor for Professional Support Staff at the London District Catholic School Board.
“I will supervise the Social Work, Psychology, and Speech and Language Services for the Board. I'm excited about the new role and the opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary team to enhance student well-being and success,” Lalonde says.
Through her career, Lalonde promotes mental health literacy, and educates youth, parents and teachers about the distinction between mental health and mental illness.
“Understanding the distinction between these concepts and promoting mental health as a positive notion has been a driving force behind my work. Regardless of the presence or absence of a diagnosed illness, I feel it is essential for people to understand that we all have to value, and take an active role in maintaining our mental health,” Lalonde says.
In her capacity, she has developed countless tools and programs in support of the mental health of students. These include the TVDSB Mental Health and Well-Being Strategic Plan, Everyday Practices for Student Mental Health & Well-Being, mental health curriculum enhancements, the “What is a mentally healthy school?” project for students, and information sessions for parents. She has also done work outside of the school board at the provincial and national level to develop school-based mental health and well-being strategies. Lalonde sees understanding mental health as critically important for young people, who may not have developed the resiliency or coping skills to manage stressful or traumatic situations.
“Teaching young people that we all struggle at times, and that this is a normal and healthy response to stress, empowers them to take charge of their mental health,” Lalonde says. “Teaching these skills instills a sense of self-efficacy and enhances resilience in the face of the many challenges we all encounter in life. While there are things we can all do to lessen the impact of stress on our physical and mental health, avoiding all stress is not only impossible, but not healthy in establishing healthy coping and resilience in our young people.”
Although it’s been 10 years since Lalonde completed her Master of Social Work, she remains a familiar face at King’s. She regularly participates as a guest lecturer, committee volunteer, mentor to students, and field instructor to social work practicum placement students.
“It is hard for me to put into words all the things I love about King's and why it is so important to me. My experience at King's, and in particular in the School of Social Work, has defined the work that I do, not only in my job, but in the broader community as well,” Lalonde says. “King's exemplifies a caring community, and being a student at King's is so much more than attending classes. The faculty and staff genuinely care for their students and take an active role in guiding their development.”
The academic support of King’s faculty in the School of Social Work has extended beyond the classroom for Lalonde, to both her professional and personal life.
“When I graduated from King's I knew that my professors would remain an integral part of my ongoing learning. They have continued to provide support, guidance, mentorship, and also act as a sounding board in my work. They have been collaborators in research, critical friends in professional decision making, and provide a safe and accepting place to return to over the years. It is an absolute honour to continue to supervise students in clinical placements and participate in various committees at King's,” Lalonde says.
Congratulations Gail Lalonde ’01, winner of the 2018 Alumni Award of Distinction.
King’s will celebrate the accomplishments of Gail Lalonde and Brian Kennedy at the Alumni Brunch, taking place on Saturday, October 20, 2018 at Homecoming. Tickets may be purchased for $20 at www.kings.uwo.ca/homecoming/, or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.