New school-based mental health programs for students

Rob Fleming

B.C. students will benefit from a $3-million investment that will support new school-based mental health programs focused on prevention, wellness promotion and early intervention, the Province announced on Monday.

The funding will include grants for all 60 school districts and independent schools for staff training sessions, parent information nights, the development of new resource materials for educators, families and community organizations, as well as student workshops.

It will also go toward enhancing existing mental wellness programs for students, parents and educators, assist with launching new ones and professional development opportunities provincewide.

“With access to new mental health programs in schools, students will get the help they need when they need it,” said Education Minister Rob Fleming. “This is essential as we all work together to strengthen mental health and addictions care in British Columbia. Educators, students and parents are clear that we need to help schools better identify early warning signs and provide ongoing support to youth with mental health issues.”

The new supports are part of government’s ongoing work to build a seamless and co-ordinated mental health and addictions system of care in B.C., including a strong focus on children and youth, as well as prevention and early intervention. B.C.’s mental health and addictions strategy will be announced later in 2019.

“Today’s students face social and emotional challenges that are becoming more and more complex all the time,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “When we address these issues early, students will be able to not just survive, but thrive – and they will benefit for years to come. I am so proud to work with the Ministry of Education to promote positive mental health and wellness. Together we are making life better for B.C.’s kids.”

To further increase supports for young people, the Ministry of Children and Family Development, in collaboration with Anxiety Canada, has created new grades K-7 anxiety prevention workshops and classroom resources for B.C. educators as part of EASE (Everyday Anxiety Strategies for Educators). EASE workshops launched Jan. 25, 2019, and will run through May. They are provided at no cost to B.C. teachers, school counsellors and other educators and will be available in two developmental levels, grades K-3 and 4-7. The workshops will support educators to integrate EASE anxiety prevention strategies into their everyday classroom routines.

“We know that many children experience anxiety. It impacts their lives at home and school,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development. “EASE resources are designed to help teachers give kids easy-to-use tools, such as recognizing anxiety in their bodies, breathing as a calming strategy and focusing on the present as a way to challenge worry. Providing this support is the first step in helping kids build life-long coping skills.”

Fleming and Darcy made the funding announcement at the second annual Ministry of Education school community mental health conference in Vancouver, which is being held February 4-5. This year’s conference brings together more than 500 representatives of B.C. public, independent and First Nations schools, police, health authorities, and child and youth mental health workers, who are focused on improving mental health and addictions services for all B.C. students.

Student mental health and substance use are key focuses of Erase (Expect Respect and a Safe Education), the Province’s safe school strategy that is being expanded to also focus on gang prevention, social media and online safety, and support students of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Throughout the school year, new Erase resources and services are being launched for students, parents and educators. These include a new Erase website and an improved online student safety reporting tool, giving students the opportunity to anonymously reach out to an adult for help in their district.