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Ontario Expanding Access to Student Mental Health Supports

Local NewsOntario Expanding Access to Student Mental Health Supports
The Ontario government is continuing to support students with expanded access to targeted mental health and well-being programs and services within local communities.

Over the past two school years, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on children and students across the world, including right here in Ontario. These investments reinforce the government’s commitment to ensuring every student in the province can reach their full potential, and they build on historic funding announced in February to overcome the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We recognize that more than ever before, many students face mental health challenges, and we want them to know help is here,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “While our government increased school mental health funding to the highest levels, we are going further by supporting community partners to expand critical mental health resources, initiatives to reduce drug use and supports that will keep students safe on the road and in the classroom.”

Ontario’s investments will help create new or sustain existing mental health and well-being programs and resources led by community organizations. The investments, which are part of the government’s Priorities and Partnerships Funding COVID-19 Equity Supports, include:

– $150,000 to Women’s Brain Health Initiative to deliver Brainable, a free education program about brain health for students in Grades 5 to 8. Taught in both official languages by an Ontario Certified Teacher, the program includes follow-up guides and activities that reinforce healthy brain habits for students, parents and teachers.
– $92,105 to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to gain a better understanding of substance use trends — including the effect of substance use on school participation — on school-aged youth from an equity perspective. Funding will also go toward resources for those working with youth who are disconnected from school due to substance use difficulties in order to support their re-engagement with the school system.
– $50,000 to the ministry’s implementation partner, School Mental Health Ontario, to collaborate with Eating Disorders Ontario (EDO) to develop promotion- and prevention-based resources in the area of eating disorders for use in Ontario’s Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools. This work aligns with efforts underway in other sectors being led by EDO.
– $50,000 to MADD Canada to present an interactive harm-reduction program that informs young people of the risks associated with using cannabis and driving.
– $25,000 to the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association (Ophea) to develop a vaping education resource, which includes options for educators and school community partners, including parents/caregivers, to navigate based on their individual needs (e.g., text-based resources, videos, short modules, etc.).

In addition to these investments, as part of Ontario’s $600-million Learning Recovery Action Plan for 2022-23, the province reaffirmed its commitment to support student resiliency and mental well-being by announcing it will invest more than $90 million, including $10 million in new funding, of which $5 million is to be used for evidence-based mental health programs and resources. This funding will help retain the existing mental health workers in schools, including the 180 mental health professionals who are providing critical supports directly to students in secondary schools across the province.

Furthermore, this investment will support the resiliency and mental well-being of all students and will enable school boards to continue to assist students who are experiencing mild to moderate mental health challenges that impact their learning.

The mental health components of the learning recovery plan include:

– Mandatory professional development on mental health for educators
– Working with the Ministry of Health to consult with stakeholders, including parents and students, to leverage the best available evidence on emerging student mental health needs and the potential of a graduation requirement on resilience and mental well-being
– Continuing to support student resilience and well-being with the following goals: mentally healthy classrooms and learning environments effective and responsive school mental health and addictions supports connections to the broader comprehensive system of mental health care.

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