To help make mental health and wellness front and centre for students, parents and educators, B.C. schools will now have access to enhanced wellness supports and programs with $8.87 million being invested over the next three years.
“Students need a safe place to say, ‘I’m not ok’, whether they’re struggling with anxiety or depression or any mental health issue,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “This investment will help provide students, parents and educators with the tools they need to support mental well-being for students across B.C. for years to come.”
Darcy and Rob Fleming, Minister of Education, made the announcement surrounded by students, families and teachers at Esquimalt High school.
Funding will be used to provide individual grants to all 60 school districts, as well as independent schools, to help them better support mental health for all children and for those with substance-use challenges. Grants can be used for different programs and supports, such as staff training, student workshops, family information nights or to develop new resource materials for educators and families.
“We know there is a gap in student success for those who struggle with mental health challenges in B.C.,” Fleming said. “With this funding, we want to ensure all students – no matter where they live or the size of their school – are able to get the quality help they need, when they need it.”
School districts and independent schools are asked to focus on initiatives related to mental health literacy, programs and supports that recognize and respond to the effects of all types of trauma, as well as social and emotional learning. School districts will work with their Indigenous partners in the planning of all activities to ensure they are culturally safe and meet the needs of Indigenous youth.
Funding will also be used to support the professional development of educators to help teachers and school districts develop a co-ordinated and consistent approach to mental health in schools throughout the province. This will include engagement with school leadership organizations, partner organizations, families and students.
Funding will also support the 2020 School Community Mental Health Conference. This third-annual conference will, once again, bring together approximately 500 representatives of B.C. public, independent and First Nations schools, police, health authorities, and child and youth mental health workers, who are focused on improving mental health and addictions services for all B.C. students.
Improving mental health in schools is an integral part of government’s actions outlined in A Pathway to Hope, B.C.’s roadmap for making the system of mental health and addictions care better for people by providing safe, quality supportive recovery services, no matter where a person lives in B.C. Implementing A Pathway to Hope is a shared priority with the BC Green Party caucus and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.
Jordan Watters, board chair, Greater Victoria School District 61 –
“Our district is committed to investing in the mental health and well-being of our students, educators and families. It is critical that our students and staff are equipped with the knowledge and resources they need to understand their own mental health, as well as the social and emotional wellness of others. We know that feeling a sense of belonging in our schools and a greater connection to the community is vital in creating safe and embracing spaces that enable student learning. These are the same conditions that give students the confidence to pursue greater passions. With this funding, our district will continue to offer resources and work with parents and community partners to raises awareness and understanding, as well as to increase mental health literacy, so we can continue to build accepting and supportive communities.”
Lassah Johnson, student and member of Youth Eliminating Stigma, Esquimalt High school –
“I would like to thank the ministries of mental health and addictions, and education, and the Greater Victoria school board for their continuous efforts in making our school a supportive and inclusive environment for everyone. As a student of Esquimalt High school, it truly means a lot to be able to access these resources and provide our classmates with quality mental health resources.”
Erase services and resources for students, parents and teachers: www.erase.gov.bc.ca
A backgrounder follows.