In this issue

  1. Language Matters
  2. Community highlight – Edmonton Public Schools

Welcome to another edition of the TeenMentalHealth.org Conversation – a place where we provide information on happenings in the area of youth mental health. Feel free to join the conversation by sharing questions, feedback, photos, or ideas for future editions.

The importance of using the right words when we’re talking about mental health

Last week was Mental Health Week in Canada and this week marks the UK’s Mental Health Awareness Week. Organizations, healthcare providers and schools all joined in on the conversation by taking part in various social media campaigns, student-led initiatives and increasing mental health awareness and knowledge. With all of these conversations going on, let’s ensure we’re using the right words when discussing our mental health.

When we don’t use words that appropriately describe how we are feeling we run the risk of making light of ma­jor concerns. For example, by thinking someone with Depression is simply feeling unhappy or dramatizing minor concerns, or by thinking someone who is having a bad day has Depression.

Becoming mental health literate and using the right words to describe how you feel can help people know when additional support or treatment may or may not be needed, while also reducing stigma surrounding mental illness.

Learn more about how you can #GetLiterate about mental health and continue the conversation all year long: http://teenmentalhealth.org/schoolmhl/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/final-using-the-right-words.pdf

Community Highlight – Edmonton Public Schools

School districts in Alberta have been working diligently to implement mental health curriculum into the classroom over the past few years. With the help of dedicated staff members like Regan Holt, many educators and youth have been able to access these important resources.

Regan Holt is the Program Coordinator for Comprehensive School Health in Edmonton Public Schools. As one of the largest schools boards serving over 100,000 students and over 9,000 FTE, she is tasked with coordinating training across the entire district.

“In collaboration with colleagues from TeenMentalHealth.org, Alberta Health Services, and teacher-consultants from our central services units, we have been adapting TeenMentHealth.org’s Mental Health and High School Curriculum Guide (the Guide) for junior high students. This has involved consideration for the diverse learning styles and varied needs of our students across grades 7-9,” says Holt.

Due to the size of the district they have adapted the modules to fit a concept-based curriculum approach to allow for a comprehensive, yet flexible delivery of the materials. The Guide has been extremely useful in Alberta where new mental health requirements have been put in place for teachers.

“Alberta’s revised Teaching Quality Standard requires that all educators are able to facilitate ‘responses to the emotional and mental health needs of our students.’ This work must begin with informed and evidence-based understandings regarding how the states of mental health are experienced, including mental disorders; and how and when to access resources and supports,” says Holt.

She also feels with this foundation in mental health literacy, targeted strategies can be put into place that will assist the community in achieving positive health outcomes and help those who need access to support.

This spring, the Edmonton Public School Board has been rolling out professional learning to grade 7 teachers across the district in order to support the implementation of the modules from the Guide in the classroom. They are confident that through this process, staff and students will become mental health literate.

“Our District is committed to a shared language and understanding of mental health and equal access to resources, learning, and supports. Implementing the junior high modules district-wide will help us to achieve this vision for mental health.”