CMHA Ontario recently partnered with HIGH FIVE and the St. Alban’s Boys and Girls Club to co-present a workshop at the Boys and Girls Club of Canada (BGCC) 2014 National Conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The workshop explored the role of after school programs in strengthening children’s mental health and was well-attended by after school program providers. Participants identified challenges in fostering children’s positive mental and, together with the facilitators, came up with viable solutions. Suggestions included creating an inclusive environment, where children feel a sense of belonging and cultivating an attitude of gratitude by getting children to think about what they’re thankful for. Focusing on children’s strengths can also develop their resiliency to cope with the stresses of everyday life.
After school program providers are in an ideal position to support children and youth, since many young people participate in extra-curricular activities. Supervisors and their staff can create supportive environments that promote positive mental health; connect children with additional services when needed and ensure that children continue to benefit from after school programs, even when they are having a hard time.
The importance of a caring adult in the lives of children and youth cannot be over-stated.Seventy percent of mental health issues begin in childhood and adolescence. In Ontario, approximately one in five children and youth has a mental health condition. If mental health conditions are caught early, appropriate intervention can reduce the severity and impact of these conditions on a child’s life.