This website is broken into sections for parents to learn about mental health for their youth. There are helpful videos included in sub categories on the website which answer several common questions parent may have. There are several resources as well for reaching out to other services. Mental health and youth is only a small section of parenting in Ottawa and there is little to no information about mental health and well being for younger children, such as children found in an elementary school. In our mandated policy, our goal is to create a policy from grades 1 to 8 and high school. Of course, information for high school students will be different then students in elementary school. This website is also the perspective of the parent, instead of the perspective of the school curriculum/environment though parents play an active role in the school community as well.
It is evident that educators and school districts are trying to support mental health in children and youth within schools. It is also evident that there is a need for school-based mental health programs and services as well as a mandated policy for addressing the issue of mental health. This is important because children and youth who suffer from mental health problems tend to face difficulties educationally as well as socially. If parents and educators work together, they can help students succeed.
The Ontario government is committed to “providing a comprehensive mental health and addictions strategy beginning with children and youth” (pg.2). Since early signs of mental health issues may become apparent through behaviour changes, difficulty focusing, or dropping grades, Open Minds, Healthy Minds, released by the Ontario government, includes some strategies to help teachers act on those first signs. These strategies to help with identification of the early signs of mental health issues and intervention are:
– using mental health literacy and cross-sectoral training
– implementing programs through schools and community-based agencies
– improving resources available in schools.
Through the collaboration of school district leaders with community agencies, parents, youth, and provincial organizations, an outline of the required principles for the support and implementation of effective, evidence-based programs and services to address mental health and well-being in schools. These principles are:
– System of care: Recognizing that different students need different levels and types of support at different times. Also recognizing that the school is part of the larger community and working together to help provide programs and services.
– Organizational development: Creating necessary conditions and contextualizing mandates and initiatives.
– Alignment: Aligning mental health and well-being programs in schools with system initiatives.
– Effective communications: Communication with system and community stakeholders.
– Capacity-building: Ensuring capacity-building is available for staff at both the school and systems levels.
– Collaboration: Ensuring effective collaboration.
Effective practices to build and co-ordinate a mental health and well-being strategy in schools involves:
- The development of a strategy and identifying the required resources and partners
- Providing evidence-based programming through a tiered approach
- Teams with multiple backgrounds to identify needs and resources
- A review and modification of the program or service
- Involving parents
- Briefings that highlight effective, evidence-based practices
- The presence of a leadership structure that is integrated and community-based
- Regional and provincial collaboration
- Developing a system of care through collaboration
- Monitoring through a feedback and evaluation process.
Council of Ontario Directors of Education (CODE). (2012). School-based mental health and well-being. Advisory, 16. Retrieved from http://www.ontariodirectors.ca/CODE_Advisories/Downloads/CODE%20Advisory%20No%2016%20Web.pdf.
Physical & Health Education Canada (PHE Canada) released two reports about mental health within the classroom. These reports showed that there is a large gap between what teachers are expected to do in terms of recognizing and assisting students who may be suffering from mental health problems, and the training that teachers receive to prepare them for this role. Teachers simply do not feel as though they have received enough training to feel equipped for this role. There is a high need for mental health support within the classroom. Statistics show that one in five students under the age of eighteen suffers from at least one mental health issue. This means that a teacher can expect to have a minimum of four students in their class in need of extra mental health support. The problem arising is that teachers don’t receive enough education as to how to support those students while maintaining positive mental health amongst their classmates.
Based on their findings, PHE Canada says that teacher education programs do not provide enough training to teacher candidates in terms of positive mental health education and resiliency development. This holds true for teacher candidates with regards to their own mental health as well as for their future students. After the studies were complete, PHE Canada held focus groups consisting of teachers, parents, and principals to discuss how they felt of about the results. The outcome was the same, there wasn’t enough education, training and support to help students in need of mental health support.
Many Canadians depend on teachers to recognize whether or not a student is suffering from a mental health issue, almost as much as they depend on their family doctor. With these findings, PHE Canada released five key recommendations to help better prepare teachers to meet their students’ needs surrounding mental health. These five recommendations include providing better training to pre-service teachers, providing opportunities for in-service teachers to learn about up-to-date strategies, and the identification of positive mental health and resiliency outcomes by provincial curricula for all grades (kindergarten to grade 12).
For more information, you can read the full PHE Canada article here.
Dewar, B. (2014). New report reveals teachers need more support to help manage mental health in the classroom. PHE Canada. Retrieved from http://www.phecanada.ca/resources/news/new-report-reveals-teachers-need-more-support-help-manage-mental-health-classroom.
Children’s Mental Health Ontario (CMHO) is an organization based out of Toronto that offers research, statistics, information, and outreach regarding the mental health of young people. Established in 1972, the organization’s main goal was to share information and advocate for the improvement of children’s mental health through policies, programs, and funds. The organization underwent a name change in 1999, which is when the shift to a more child-focus approach took place. CMHO has nearly 100 members organizations operating throughout the province. These organizations provide programs and services such as counseling, therapy, among others offered by trained mental health professionals.
The CMHO represents Ontario’s publicly funded Child and Youth Mental Health Centres. They are advocates for government investments, policies, and programs. They are working towards creating an Ontario in which young people are mentally healthy by creating a system of high quality care. They look at strengthening mental health agencies and enhancing services. Their values are dignity, family, availability, investment, engagement, collaboration, integration, and accountability.
The information is specific to Ontario. The website has many features including a blog, news, events, career opportunities, upcoming events, ways to get involved, and donation collection. The blog is open for public contributions. The website also consists educational resources, including resources for teachers, parents, youth, and professionals.
For more information, visit their website: http://cmho.org/
Teachers have a big impact on their students, particularly youth. As educators, the role we play in the lives of our students reaches out past the traditional classroom. Unfortunately, the mental health of our students is something that is not always considered. The reality is that mental health is a very significant and relevant part of our students lives. Teachers are in a unique position within their profession, they have the opportunity to recognize and suggest seeking assistance to those who suffer from mental health related issues, meaning that teachers can “play an important role in the health and well being of Canadian youth”(pg.1). This is only possible if teachers are equipped with the knowledge and tools they need to recognize and intervene.
Mental health is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”(pg.1). Based on statistics, one in five students suffers from some sort of mental disorder. This makes mental disorders the most common condition affecting youth. Mental disorders are also considered to be the most disabling condition affecting youth.
Mental disorders affect a student’s emotional well-being, ability to learn, and are the reason some students drop out of school. According to Meldrum, Venn, and Kutcher, a three-pronged approach can be used to address mental health problems at school. These three prongs are:
- using the classroom for sigma reduction
- identify and intervene
- school curriculum meets mental health promotion.
Teachers can help advance mental health in schools by: supporting policy development, supporting the application of mental health curriculum, creating support systems within schools, and supporting the development and implementation of professional development for teachers surrounding mental health.
Meldrum, L., Venn, D., & Kutcher, S. (n.d.). Mental health in schools: How teachers have the power to make a difference. Retrieved from http://www.ctf-fce.ca/Research-Library/Issue8_Article1_EN.pdf.
In a previous post, I reviewed the resource Mental Health & High School Curriculum Guide (2015) as an effective way for educators to teach mental health in schools. Upon contact with Amy Mackay, assistant of Stan Kutcher (main author of The Guide and founder of www.teenmentalhealth.org), I was able to research into the effectiveness of The Guide in secondary schools. The main studies were conducted in high schools in both Nova Scotia and the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), assessing students’ mental health knowledge and attitudes before the implementation of the curriculum, afterwards, and at a two-month follow-up. The results showed significant improvement in not only students’ mental health knowledge and attitudes, but also in those of educators (Mcluckie, Kutcher, Wei, & Weaver, 2014; Kutcher & Wei, 2014; Kutcher, Wei, & Morgan, 2015). The Guide was implemented as a regular part of grade 9 health classes; therefore there was no need for any extra time out of the school day or extra costs. The studies showed that students’ attitudes towards mental health were more positive after implementation of The Guide; meaning that there was a reduced stigma around people with mental illnesses, causes of them, and around help seeking and treatment (Kutcher, Wei, & Morgan, 2015, p.582). Therefore, these studies show that The Guide is an effective resource in teaching students about mental health as well as reducing stigma. An idea then, would be to have this curriculum distributed throughout Canada as the required resource for teaching the mental health portion of the health curriculum. This resource was tested in grade 9 classes; however, I believe that it could be used as early as grade 7, where mental health topics begin to appear in the curriculum. Until then, students could learn about general well-being as it relates to mindfulness, healthy practices, meditation, and stress, all of which are touched on in the current curriculum, but should be given more of a focus given the challenges young students face on a daily basis.
Kutcher, S., Wei, Y., & Morgan, C. (2015). “Successful Application of a Mental Health Curriculum Resource by Usual Classroom Teachers in Significantly and Sustainably Improving Student Mental Health Literacy.” Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 60(12), 580-586.
Kutcher, S. & Wei, Y. (2014). “School Mental Health Literacy: A national curriculum guide shows promising results.” Education Canada, 54(2), 22-25.
Mcluckie, A., Kutcher, S., & Wei, Y., & Weaver C. (2014). “Sustained improvement in students’ mental health literacy with use of a mental health curriculum in Canadian schools.” BMC Psychiatry, 14:379.
*Note: these articles were sent to me directly, but they are readily available online.
Mental Health Now! Advancing the Mental Health of Canadians: The Federal Role
This document was released in September of 2016 by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health(CAMINH). It is a lengthy document that describes in great detail a five-point plan focused on funding, structure, innovation, health outcomes and system performance to advance policy discussion for mental health.
Point 1. Ensure sustainable funding for access to mental health services.
The percentage of government funding currently for mental health is 7.2% of total public health spending and CAMINH propose it should be increased to a minimum of 9%. This alliance identifies areas where investment will improve timely access to care, by focusing on mobilizing the capacity of the mental health system and improving integration of systems and programs.
CAMIMH also recommends that the federal government introduce a Mental Healthy Parity Act that affirms that mental health is valued equally to physical health. This strongly aligns with our project to create a mandated mental health and well being education policy.
Point 2. Accelerate the adoption of proven and promising mental health initiatives.
Like we have researched in this project, there are many programs or initiatives already in place but they are unknown, or there is not much in-take of these projects. CAMIMH recommends that the federal government create a 5-year Mental Health Innovation Fund of $100 million dollars to kick-start the spread of innovation.
Point 3. Measure, manage, and monitor mental health system performance.
Mental health is hard to measure because mental health cannot be measured using 1 form of assessment. Mental health is such a broad topic that covers nutrition, well-being, illness, etc. and not all the aspects of mental health can be measured quantitatively. Many assessments of mental health are subjectively based on a persons’ reflection and therefore cannot be accurately measured. CAMIMH understands you cannot manage what you cannot measure. There are no comparable Pan-Canadian mental health indicators to assess performance of mental health programs currently in effect. There has been ground-breaking work by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, but the alliance recommends creating a set of indicators that are comparable within and across the provinces and territories.
Point 4. Establish an expert advisory panel on mental health
By pulling together experts from all walks of life, expert panels could (1) exchange perspectives on needs and opportunities to improve mental health of Canadians, (2) discuss strategies, policies, programs and access to mental health services, (3) present innovative practices and reforms from Canada, (4) review public-private interface, and (5) identify what is needed in mental health research priorities.
Point 5. Invest in social infrastructure
It is recommended that the government consider social infrastructure in a more holistic way. A targeted base income is recommended to reduce the long-term social and financial costs of poverty, directly affected the mental health of Canadians. This paired with affordable housing strategies, would be a huge part of a national mental health strategy.
Below are some mental health statistics to support the notion of the importance of mental health and well being as well as why mental health needs to be looked at using this 5-point system created by the CAMINH. These statistics have been taken directly from the article published by the CAMINH and can be access from the link at the top of the page.
Each point of the 5 -point plan is covered in much specificity, making this document very valuable when looking at the progression of the improvement of mental health and well being. Many groups have become combined together to create the CAMIMH. With the constant push from this alliance, I feel there will be much support in the future for all people whose mental health is declining. My colleagues and I now look to create a similar model in the context of a school setting, to mandate that mental health be integrated into curriculum, and not be brushed off because there is not time for it. Rather, we look to integrate mental health within all curriculum. This document greatly supports the need for mental health supports for the public as a whole, without all people being supported there will be little head way for student supports. Until society realizes the importance of mental health and well being on the lives of all, there will be slow grow in this sector of importance. Our policy will give a broad explanation as to the importance of a mandated education policy on mental health and well-being. Once this step has been reached, funding can be discussed.