In this issue

  1. Mental Health Academy – Develop a foundation in mental health literacy for you and your students
  2. Community Highlight – Nova Scotia school-based mental health initiatives

Welcome to another edition of the 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.

7th Mental Health Academy

This July will mark the 7th Mental Health Academy. The Academy aims to enhance mental health literacy through evidence-based research and programs. Each year, hundreds of educators, administrators and healthcare providers, take a day out of their summer holiday to educate themselves on adolescent mental health topics.

This year’s program will be no different. Dr. Stan Kutcher will open the day with a keynote on wellness, followed by representatives from WE Well-Being, Leysa Cerswell Kielburger and Kaila Muzzin, who will transform the conversation around well-being and help us understand how service learning, social emotional learning, and mental health literacy are being infused into our schools, our families and our local and global communities. Various breakout sessions will be available for attendees to choose topics ranging from Anxiety and ADHD, to behavioural issues in the classroom, school-based mental health literacy programs with helpful takeaways on how they can be implemented in your school and a session tailored specifically for school guidance counsellors.

Registration is closing on July 8th and space for sessions is limited so be sure to register for this fantastic professional development opportunity!

Community Highlight – Nova Scotia school-based mental health initiatives

There are eight districts that help make up the Nova Scotia Centres for education. Over the past few years Nova Scotian schools have been working towards implementing mental health education into their classrooms, but with each school comes its own unique needs and challenges.

“On top of what might be considered normal stressors, they are coping with less family support in our area as parents move to different parts of the country and sometimes different parts of the world for employment,” says Cathy Viva, Director of Programs and Student Services for the Cape Breton Victoria Regional Center for Education.

“Our youth are exposed to social media messages every day and personal messages that with the anonymity of social media can bombard their thoughts with negative feedback causing students to doubt their abilities.”

With all of these growing concerns, educators and administrators are looking for ways to have these important conversations in the classroom.

With the help of the Mental Health and High School Curriculum Guide (the Guide), and various professional development opportunities offered to educators through TeenMentalHealth.Org, progress is being made.

“There are more requests for resources, help and Professional Development. Communication is opening up and even if there is a hesitancy to facilitate lessons on mental health it is being identified and assistance is being put in place. Students are accessing help more frequently and are becoming more comfortable in discussing mental health issues in class,” says Cathy.

Research shows that when the Curriculum is applied in the classroom it enables better understanding of mental illnesses, decreases stigma and encourages the development of positive mental health strategies. It also gives teachers the necessary literacy to foster positive mental health initiatives in schools and help create safe and supportive environments for their students.

The Strait Regional Centre for Education encompasses 20 schools. In recent years they have shown their support of promoting mental health literacy by supporting local initiatives like theMental Health Academy and sharing TeenMentalHealth.Org’s resources through social media.

Sharon MacCuspic and Wanda Fougere, Directors of Programs and Student Services for the Strait Regional Centre for Education have been directly involved in developing a mental health literacy rollout in schools within their jurisdiction.

“For the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years the Strait Regional Centre for Education developed a Mental Health Strategy to support positive mental health and pro-social skills development across all grades for all students in the Strait Regional Centre for Education.”

This strategy will aim to promote skills and knowledge that will develop positive mental health, provide preventative initiatives and services designed to build skills and reduce risk factors in students, and facilitate interventions that support students to, from and through mental health care.

They have found the online professional learning platform Teach Mental Health has been most helpful to educators in helping develop a foundation in mental health literacy and enable them with the confidence to present the information in their classrooms.

It’s still early, but Sharon and Wanda feel the response from both teachers and students has been positive and helped enhance the overall conversation. Cathy has also seen a huge improvement in how the topics are being addressed in class.

“Students are becoming more comfortable in discussing mental health issues and using appropriate terminology has facilitated common understanding and opened the door to richer discussion.”