As the Canadian Mental Health Association's website states: Mental Health is about more than mental illness. It's more than being happy all the time. It's about feeling good about who you are, having balance in your life, and managing life's highs and lows. Everyone deserves to feel well, whatever their mental health experience. And we all need a support system to lean on.
This reference to a support system is exactly what the staff of the Department of Programs and Student Services had as its focus when it established the first Mental Health Strategy for the Strait Regional Centre for Education this school year.
Director of Programs and Student Services, Sharon MacCuspic, points out that there are three main priorities focused on supporting teachers in their instructional practice and on promoting safe, positive and inclusive learning environments included in the Mental Health Strategy:
- Promote the skills, attitudes, knowledge and habits that develop and nurture positive mental health.
- Provide preventative initiatives and services designed to build skills and reduce risk factors in students.
- Facilitate interventions that support students to, from and through mental health care.
In addition, a number of initiatives were identified to achieve these priorities:
- Professional learning opportunities were provided to selected staff from all schools in Promoting Alternate Thinking Strategies (PATHS), Go-To training and professional development to implement the mental health component of Healthy Living 9.
- A brochure promoting mental health supports and services, and resources for students, staff and families has been produced. It may be accessed at Mental Health Resources and Services.
- The SRCE has partnered with St. F.X. University and Dr. Stan Kutcher, internationally-renowned expert in adolescent mental health, to introduce the “Know Before You Go” resource for Grade 12 students at Dr. J.H. Gillis Regional High School and East Antigonish Education Centre/Academy. This resource helps students navigate through situations they will encounter as they transition from high school to post-secondary education or employment, with a focus on maintaining good mental health. The SRCE will be continuing this partnership in the 2018-19 school year to expand implementation throughout the Strait Region. A copy of this resource is available at teenmentalhealth.org. An online, interactive version is available through the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development at https://knowbeforeyg.ednet.ns.ca/.
- In response to topics identified through students throughout the SRCE, Programs Staff have partnered with the Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre and school staff to develop training materials on consent and sexualized violence, prosocial skills and self-esteem and Healthy Relationships for Youth.
- As a follow up to regional in-servicing provided to all schools, all Grades Primary to 6 teachers at St. Mary’s Education Centre/Academy were supported by their school’s Guidance Counsellor, Rob Wolf, and Teacher Courtney Cameron in PATHS training. Additional training at SMEC/A will be provided to support staff, including lunch supervisors, with an implementation plan for all P-6 classrooms currently underway.
This school-based initiative is one of the many excellent examples throughout the Region of school-wide approaches to promoting mental wellness and pro-social behavior!
- Dr. Stan Kutcher facilitated a professional development opportunity for all school administrators. The session focused on mental health literacy and wellness in connection to the Mental Health Strategy.
- Dr. Stan Kutcher also facilitated a public session entitled Mental Health 101 for parents/guardians, youth, teachers and community members during which they had the opportunity to learn more about mental health literacy and mental wellness.
The SRCE is committed to promoting positive mental health for all students, and will continue to work alongside our community and health care partners towards a collaborative and comprehensive approach that supports mental and physical well-being.