Universal screening also promotes equity by ensuring no student falls through the cracks. As the Canadian Paediatric Society’s April 2022 “Policy Brief” asserts, “Strengthening Canada’s mental health care system and addressing persistent and discriminatory gaps in access will help young people recover from the impacts of the pandemic and support the health and development of future generations.”
Besides leveraging universal screening to improve student access to supportive resources, educators can champion a safe environment by fostering a culture that nurtures each child individually and has no tolerance for bullying. The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) shares that “a positive school environment” can be an important factor in reducing mental health risk.
Providing ongoing support during the summer months
Educators are often concerned about student learning loss over summer vacation. As they aim to foster holistic wellbeing for their students, they also need to consider how mental health can be affected during the summer break. Of particular concern is students who find themselves without the supports they rely on during the school year, including a routine and a place to go where they are surrounded by caring adults.
Some specific actions educators can take to help are:
- Educate students on how healthy habits can bolster mental wellbeing. Neglecting school-year routines can lead to disrupted schedules, but youth will feel better physically and mentally if they prioritise healthy eating and adequate physical exercise and sleep.
- Recommend activities that can help keep them busy and involved, which will help boost their mental health. For example, you can share details on summer school programs, volunteer activities and community events. Encouraging teens to seek employment can help them learn important skills while earning extra money and creating positive interactions.
- Raise awareness of help available outside of school, which can provide a lifeline to students and families. Schools can create a list of community resources such as local peer support groups and telehealth services, which they can publicise via the school website, social media platforms and other channels regularly used to communicate with students and families. An important one to underscore is Kids Help Phone, a 24/7 e-mental health service offering free, confidential support to young people in English and French.
Caring for the whole student
Promoting better mental health should be a key focus as you strive to create an inclusive community that focuses on your students’ overall wellbeing. For more free resources and tools, visit Pearson’s Mental Health Resource Centre. If you are an educator, be sure to follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn to keep up with our #MHMonday series where we share mental health activities, tips, and polls for you and your students!