Mental Health School Policy Model: Nova Scotia
Wei & Kutcher’s (2011) article, Comprehensive School Mental Health: An Integrated “School-Based Pathway to Care” Model for Canadian Secondary Schools provided an overview of model for mental health prevention and intervention in schools, as well as links to future research and websites for resources on school mental health strategies. This article pertains to our research question of why the Ontario Ministry of Education does not have a mandated mental health school policy put in place because it outlines what can and has been done in Nova Scotia, laying a basis for what can be done in Ontario.
The article begins with a statement similar to our own: “mental health, an essential component of general health and well-being, has been largely absent from the national education agenda” (p.214). Since education is governed provincially, it would be fit to tweak that statement to the “provincial” education agenda. Countries including the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand have all developed national policies to integrate mental health into schools; whereas in Canada, mental health has been marginalized and policies have not been created to address child and youth mental health (p.217).
Promoting health in schools can be done through three different areas: curriculum, teaching, and learning practices, school organization, ethos, and environment, and partnerships and services (p.216). The article then proposes their own model of health promotion, “School-Based Pathway to Care,” which includes mental health literacy in the school curriculum, collaboration between schools, community organizations, and healthcare professionals, as well as increased training for teachers and school professionals on early identification, prevention, and intervention (p.218). At the time of the article, this was set to be a pilot project in Nova Scotia secondary schools; since then, it has expanded into a resource bank, most notably in the Mental Health and High School Curriculum Guide and at www.teenmentalhealth.org. More research needs to be done on the effectiveness of these programs; however, the message is still clear that each province must have their own policy on school mental health in order for students to feel safe, accepted, supported so that they can reach their full potential.
It seems fitting then, to move into a review of the curriculum document entitled Mental Health and High School Curriculum Guide (2015). This is a comprehensive guide that can be used for secondary school health classes. It first breaks down mental health literacy into four components:
- Understanding how to optimize and maintain good mental health,
- Understanding mental disorders and their treatments,
- Decreasing stigma, and
- Enhancing help-seeking efficacy (knowing when and where to get help and having the skills necessary to promote self-care and how to obtain good care).
The curriculum is divided into six different modules that address these areas of mental health literacy: the stigma of mental illness, understanding mental health and mental illness, information on specific mental illnesses, experiences of mental illness, seeking help and finding support, and the importance of positive mental health (p.9-10). Each module comes with activities and lessons to do in the classroom, such as access to PowerPoint presentations and videos, worksheets, information sheets, surveys, and quizzes. Each module is very comprehensive and well-planned, and the activities are very thorough for teaching students about mental health. I would definitely recommend educators and anyone willing to learn more about mental health to go to www.teenmentalhealth.org to explore the resources and download the curriculum guide.
Kutcher, S. & Wei, Y. (2015). Mental Health and High School Curriculum Guide. Retrieved from: http://teenmentalhealth.org/curriculum/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Mental-Health-High-School-Curriculum-Guide.pdf
Wei, Y., Kutcher, S., & Szumilas, M. (2011). “Comprehensive School Mental Health: An Integrated ‘School-Based Pathway to Care’ Model for Canadian Secondary Schools.” McGill Journal of Education, 46(2), 213-229. Retrieved from: http://mje.mcgill.ca/article/view/5587/6770.