In response to a census that indicated many of its students experience loneliness, sadness, anxiety, stress and worry about the future, Canada’s largest school board announced that it is implementing a four-year Mental Health Strategy. The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) initiative involves:
- Providing training to teachers to better address student mental health issues.
- Setting up mental health teams in every public school to lead programming that raises awareness about the stigma associated with mental health issues.
- Increasing the number of partnerships with agencies and charities that provide mental health programming.
- Ensuring that parents are better informed about their children’s emotional well-being.
70% of all mental health issues begin in childhood and adolescence, and early intervention is key to successful resolution of issues.
The TDSB initiative is but one example of how school boards across Ontario are implementing mental health initiatives for students, including setting “mental health goals” for the year. Recognizing that 70% of all mental health issues begin in childhood and adolescence, and that early intervention is key to successful resolution of issues, school-based initiatives hold promise for improving individuals’ mental health.
CMHA Ontario can support school boards, parents and educators in effectively responding to students’ mental health concerns and improving students’ sense of well-being. Talking About Mental Illness is an anti-stigma program delivered by CMHA public educators to children and youth that includes presentations by people with lived experience.
CMHA Ontario has also developed curriculum modules, such as the Mental Health and High School Curriculum Guide, for students and teachers. The guide provides information to help educators and youth increase their knowledge of mental health and mental illnesses. The guide also includes tools for teachers to promote dialogue among students.
CMHA Ontario has co-developed a resource book, called Compassionate Classrooms, to support teachers as they promote good mental health in the classroom and address students’ mental health issues. This resource book can also be used by teachers to improve their own mental health as well as the mental health of their colleagues.
For many students, teachers and peers are the first people that they can turn to for help. By ensuring that adequate supports are in place for students, we can work together to improve their mental health, ensuring better school performance and helping them to grow and develop to their full potential.