More children, teens and young adults will gain better access to mental health support through an investment to expand Stigma-Free programs and a special mental health toolkit.
Stigma-Free Society has been provided $45,000 to expand the reach of its programs in B.C. schools. This venture comes at a vital time when the COVID-19 pandemic, the restart plan and return to normal activities are affecting the mental health of young people throughout the province. The funding will support two resources: Student Mental Health Toolkit and the Virtual Stigma-Free School Program.
“The pandemic has been hard on the mental health of many children, youth and their families,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “I am grateful to partner with Stigma-Free Society to expand the reach of mental health supports for young people at this critical time.”
The toolkit is an online resource with evidence-based content developed to engage youth from grades 4-7 and grades 8-12. It offers mental wellness lesson plans that follow B.C. curriculum guidelines while using engaging elements like comic books, illustrated animations and a section devoted to diverse-ability and inclusion. To access the toolkit, schools can request a Virtual Stigma-Free Program presentation created by certified professionals and delivered by those with lived experience.
“Our focus is on the social and emotional well-being of students as we return to a near-normal school year in September,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education. “We know the pandemic has impacted students in different ways. That’s why it is important to offer a variety of supports in schools, including the Stigma-Free toolkit and virtual program, which align with the Mental Health in Schools Strategy, allowing us to effectively connect with students.”
To date, 55,000 students and teachers have participated in a Stigma-Free Program presentation and now have access to ongoing support through the online toolkit. The Stigma-Free Society has set a goal to expand its reach to an additional 10,000 students in B.C. over the next 18 months with a focus on rural and remote communities.
“Youth are often ill-equipped to face mental health challenges and the stigma or discrimination that is associated with conditions such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorder,” said Andrea Paquette, president, Stigma-Free Society. “In this time of intersecting societal crises, we are seeing great need around student mental health, and a unique opportunity to invest in mental health supports for children, youth and teachers in communities across British Columbia through digital outreach.”
Stigma-Free Society currently delivers six programs on mental health education and peer support for people living with mental health challenges. It plans to expand to as many school districts as possible to provide mental health supports for thousands more students, families and educators.
Ensuring B.C.’s young people have access to the mental health and addictions supports they need when they need it is a priority outlined in A Pathway to Hope, B.C.’s roadmap to create a comprehensive system of care that works for everyone.
To read A Pathway to Hope, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/BCMentalHealthRoadmap_2019.pdf
About Stigma-Free Society: http://www.stigmafreesociety.com (can01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com)