Thursday, 30 January 2014

School Mental Health: The road ahead

Canada’s largest school board (Toronto District School Board, TDSB), recently made a major announcement that the entire workforce is to receive mental health training, as far down the line as the lunch lady. The four-year strategy will provide roughly 40,000 staff members with mental health training, focusing on promoting positive mental heath and wellness in schools, enhance the communication between school staff and parents and increase the number of anti-stigma programs by 50 percent, click here to learn more.

CBC News: More mental health training to help young Canadians

Kudos to TDSB for taking action on what we believe is vital to the health of our young people. This is a major step forward for both, the Province of Ontario and Canada.

We have recently collaborated with the Department of Education and the Teacher’s Plus Credit Union to implement a larger, but similar approach in Nova Scotia implementing our seminal resource Mental Health & High School Curriculum Guide, into each school board across the province. The approach included a two-day mental health literacy training on the Curriculum Guide as well as the ‘Go-To’ Teacher training model which focuses on improving educators’ knowledge. It has provided educators with the capacity to learn how to identify adolescents with mental health problems or disorders and how to link them with appropriate services for help.

Evidence-based results have demonstrated:
  • A substantial improvement on knowledge regarding mental health and mental illnesses.
  • Increased positive attitudes towards mental illness and people who live with them.
  • Increased capacity to learn how to identify adolescents with mental health problems or disorders and how to link them with appropriate services for help
Dr. Stan Kutcher delivering school mental health training in Nova Scotia
The full 2013 Mental Health & High-School Curriculum report is available here.

The full ‘Go-To’ Teacher training report is available here. 

These developments have made Nova Scotia the first province to embed mental health literacy and full school identification, triage and support capabilities. The results provide sound evidence that the Mental Health Curriculum Guide training model and ‘Go-To’ Teacher Training are the model for other provinces to follow in addressing youth mental health literacy needs in Canada.

Teens are the least likely to seek out help for a mental illness or disorder further requiring the education of school staff and administration. In addition to the Guide, it’s important to provide a resource specific to those that continue to make the move at their final years of school over to colleges/universities and to fill this gap, Transitions has been made available both in the schools as well as in post-secondary intuitions. Transitions helps teens understand, self-help and assist others on various topics, ranging from different mental illnesses, finances, sexuality and much more. It’s availability as an App, an e-book, online and as a hard-copy makes it easily accessible for teens in the form and platform of their choice.

Once launched, the App was made available to 6000 post-secondary students across Nova Scotia immediately – not to mention the 3000 hard copies spread throughout the partner universities of the Stay Connected Mental Health Project.

While the initial focus was on Nova Scotia, it will be rolled out across Canada throughout 2014 with interest now coming in from the United States, United Kingdom, and as far as China for versions to be rolled out in those countries.

To learn more about Transitions, have a look at promotional video, 'Transitioning as a student.'

A comprehensive approach to dealing with Mental Health in the classroom is required and with the two strategies noted above we believe a true difference can be made at a critical point in the lives of the youth we hope to serve and protect.

For more information, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Faten Alshazly, the Advisor to the Sun Life Financial Chair in Adolescent Mental Health at

Mitch Shea & Faten Alshazly


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