According to the World Health Organization, mental health is a state of well-being. When you have good mental health, you can deal with normal stresses of life, work productively, realize your potential and make a positive contribution to your community.
Statistics and Facts about Childhood Mental Health Problems
The number of children and youth with mental health problems has been increasing drastically. Statistics from the Canadian Mental Health Association show that only one in five children in Canada who need mental health treatment in Canada receives these services.
"Given its prevalence, mental illness may be the biggest health problem facing Canadian children. One in five Ontario children and youth (approximately 500,000) has a mental health challenge, with higher rates for Aboriginal populations. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth aged ten to 19 in Canada – the third-highest suicide rate in the industrialized world. For adults with mental illness, 70 percent report that their illnesses began during childhood or adolescence."
Provincial Advocate of Ontario (PDF)
Education is Essential to overcome Misinformation and Stigma
When parents and educators have sufficient knowledge about mental health and well-being, they are in a better position to identify mental health problems, understand and support children with mental health concerns.
If more people can recognize an issue, instead of missing early warning signs, more people can receive the treatment they need.
Treatment is always easier and more effective, the younger the person is when they receive help.
Listening to Kids about Mental Health
What do kids want?
- Places of belonging
- Safe places - a welcoming, non-judgmental place
- Good living situations ("For the youth, good mental health began with a safe place to live, food, and an income sufficient to provide stability and choice.")
- Available adult leaders (The youth wanted adults to be involved in their lives. Parents and other family members, teachers and school staff, community agency staff, and church leaders were all seen as potential supports to young people in staying or getting healthy. )
- Access to services (The kids want services available to keep them mentally healthy.)
The Role of the Government of Ontario
The government of Ontario recognizes an existing need for mental health and well-being awareness which is why resource guides like Guiding Principles Supporting Minds (PDF) were created. Supporting Minds was created in 2011 as part of a comprehensive mental health & addiction strategy for Ontario.
It is one of many resources the government has made available to school boards to enhance the recognition and support students with mental health problems. Supporting Minds targets educators given the vital role an entire community can play in children’s upbringing.
According to Government of Ontario in Health and Physical Education PDF
"Educators play an important role in promoting children and youth’s well-being by creating, fostering, and sustaining a learning environment that is healthy, caring, safe, inclusive, and accepting. A learning environment of this kind will support not only students’ cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development but also their mental health, their resilience, and their overall state of well-being. All this will help them achieve their full potential in school and in life."
The Guide helps Educators Identify Students
There are signs and symptoms of mental health problems, and if teachers, support staff, parents and our wider community learn to spot signs of mental health issues, then more children can seek proper treatment. The guide also provides tips to support children with mental disorders while at school.
Videos from the Ontario Government Youtube Channel
- How to Spot the Signs of a Mental Health Concern in Children
- Normal Actions or a Mental Health Concern?
- How to Talk to Teenagers about Mental Health?
The Ontario government has also made efforts to ensure students learn as much as possible about mental health in school. The current curriculum focusses living skills to help create a firm foundation for the future physical and psychological well-being of our people.
Quick Facts PDF for Parents to understand what schools are teaching about mental health.
Living skills boost a person’s sense of self.
The skills also help a person form as well as maintain healthy relationships, think creatively and critically, make wise decisions and solve problems. Integrating mental health education in the curriculum has also helped tackle mental health issues such as stigma. Raising awareness is one of the most effective tools for fighting stigma in society.
The curriculum teaches the mind-body connections as well as the importance of physical activity in tackling mental health and well-being problems.
The current curriculum also covers all the factors contributing to emotional well-being, ways of:
- identifying sources of stress,
- coping with stress and adversity,
- developing self-awareness,
- recognizing, understanding, and responding to signs of emotional difficulty.
Students learn about developing social and communication skills, identifying and building healthy relationships and the possible connections between social
and communication skills with addiction, substance abuse, and mental health.
For younger students, the curriculum focuses on encouraging students to seek help from their parents or caregivers if they need any help with their feelings and thoughts.
There is a great emphasis on helping students establish self-regulation skills and internal motivations which are crucial for adapting as well as understanding emotional and social demands.
Parents are included in the government's effort to promote student's mental health and well-being through a website such a Ministry of Children and Youth Services.
The Children and Youth Services ministry also has a youth development resource dubbed Stepping Stones designed to help students/young people between ages 12 and 25 years.
The government has defined the role of parents in helping their children understand mental health.
For instance, parents are counseled to talk to their kids about mental health and well-being. There are guidelines on how parents can help their children understand and cope with mental health and well-being problems.
For instance, parents can help their children describe their emotions. Parents can also create opportunities for their children to open up and share their concerns.
Visit Kids Mental Health resource page for parents.
Other Initiatives and Policies
The Ministry of Education also has initiatives and policies in place to contribute to the mental health and overall well-being of students. Notable initiatives and policies include the following:
- Ontario Leadership Strategy
- Equity & Inclusive Education Strategy
- Early Learning Framework
- Parent Engagement Policy
- Safe and Healthy Schools
- Student Voices
- School Effectiveness Framework Initiatives
- Promoting Well-Being in Ontario's Education System
- Ontario Well Being Strategy and Fact Sheets
- Ophea.net — champions healthy, active living in schools and communities
- Sign up for Ophea's newsletter which highlights new content in healthy, active living. See a sample newsletter.
- Safe Schools Training Login
Program Contact: Alexa McKinnon