HALIFAX, NS (May 5, 2015) – The team behind TeenMentalHealth.Org is working hard to improve mental health literacy across Canada. Recently, led by Dr. Stan Kutcher, we have been busy developing a pre-service teacher mental health literacy curriculum resource, in partnership with faculties of education at the University of British Columbia, University of Western Ontario and St. Francis Xavier University.
Although 70% of mental illnesses start before age 25, and 1 in 5 youth will experience a mental illness in their lifetime, understanding mental health is an ongoing challenge. Educators who interact with youth on a daily basis often lack the basic knowledge and skills necessary to recognize and understand mental illness, and have repeatedly expressed concern regarding inadequate educational foundations in mental health literacy. This education gap has resulted in teachers entering the workforce with an insufficient ability to understand the mental health challenges of their students – something they ultimately face on a daily basis. Dr. Kutcher believes that pre-service teachers who are mental health literate will be better prepared for their careers.
“We have heard from educators all across Canada that teachers want to be more knowledgeable about mental health and mental illnesses and to be better prepared to address these in their classrooms,” says Dr. Kutcher. “What we are doing in collaboration with our partners in three Canadian Faculties of Education is trying to meet that need by providing a curriculum resource that can be used in pre-service training of teachers all across Canada, so that all new teachers have the opportunity to be knowledgeable and prepared from the time they arrive in their classrooms.”
There have been many steps in the curriculum development process. In 2014, the team completed a national scoping exercise, which was used to determine how faculties of education in Canada are currently addressing mental health literacy. From there, a needs assessment was conducted with more than 30 educational institutions and organizations across the country to ensure the curriculum resource would be beneficial to those who intend on using it. Each of these institutions and organizations also form the Participant Observer network, and have been invited to provide feedback on the curriculum once it is developed. The team and its partners are now beginning the process of compiling evidence-based materials and writing the resource. To date, the project has received an overwhelmingly positive response, with one Dean of Education noting that this curriculum resource would be “a timely and critical piece in teacher preparation.”
The development of the pre-service teacher education curriculum resource will help develop, foster and enhance mental health literacy for teachers and ultimately for students as well. It will enable better understanding of mental health problems and mental disorders, help decrease stigma surrounding mental illnesses, aid in the understanding of best practices for support and treatment, and encourage the development of positive mental health strategies. It also gives teachers the necessary literacy to foster positive mental health initiatives in schools, help create safe and supportive environments for their students, and aid in mental health promotion and prevention, ultimately transitioning the school setting to be part of a comprehensive pathway to mental health care access and support for youth.
For more information on the development of the curriculum resource, visit www.teenmentalhealth.org.
ABOUT DR. KUTCHER
Dr. Kutcher holds the position of the Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health, a partnership between Sun Life Financial, Dalhousie University and the IWK Health Centre and is the Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center at Dalhousie University.
Kate Elliot, Communications Coordinator
Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health