One of our classes in the teacher education program at the University of Ottawa focuses on the health and well-being of middle and secondary school students. As part of the class, we have to design and implement a program that promotes well-being in schools. After some discussion, my group decided that our project would be more research-based than action-based. We noticed that there are a number of different policies put into place in Ontario schools, such as DPA, support for students with special education needs, and the right for LGBTQ+ students to form GSAs in their schools (just a short list); however, there isn’t one that addresses mental health. It is part of the new health curriculum, but the rise in mental illness rates in students and teen suicides is a cause of concern.
Our research question is as follows: Why doesn’t the Ontario Ministry of Education have a mandated mental health policy?
We’ll be attempting to answer our research question through reviewing what has been done in the field of mental health education. So far, we have looked at curriculum and policy documents from other provinces and countries that have shown that a set plan to follow for educators has increased awareness, decreased stigma, and led to a rise in well-being in students.
At the conclusion of our research, we also hope to draft a rough policy that outlines the approach we want to see taken in schools. So far we have ideas about making time during the school day to check in with students, allowing for the creation of mental health support and awareness groups in schools, and educating teachers on the signs and symptoms of different mental illnesses and what they can do when these signs are recognized.
Remember, there is no health without mental health. Let’s start the conversation to end the stigma.