Children’s Mental Health Ontario welcomes new People for Education report
Toronto, ON, November 4, 2019: A new report released today from the People for Education, Supporting students’ mental health: A collective responsibility, includes new data from 1254 Ontario elementary and secondary schools and focuses on the resources needed to support mental health and well-being school-based programs and policy in the province.
Findings in the report show that the mental health needs of students are increasing with principals reporting that they are seeing more students struggling with mental health issues. The report also shows inequalities to access by students to receive mental health supports depending on where they live and whether they are in enrolled in an elementary or secondary school. The report shows a decline in access to psychologists, as well as substantial regional disparities in access to supports such as social workers, psychologists, and child and youth workers.
Schools in Northern Ontario are less likely than in other regions in the province to have a wide range of supports for students’ mental health. Additionally, when referrals are made for students to receive external support, many families are unable to travel the long distance to available resources. Principals also note that efforts to support student mental health extend beyond the classroom to families and within their communities.
The report’s findings come as no surprise to Children’s Mental Health Ontario. Now more than ever, the mental health and well-being of Ontario children and youth should be a priority. Previous data from Children’s Mental Health Ontario, which was cited in the People for Education report, shows that nearly half of all youth in Ontario (46%) report having missed school as a result of their anxiety, and one quarter of all kids with mental health issues experience substantially lower achievement at school.
Educators are important partners of CMHO child and youth mental health centres. Teachers are often among the first to recognize a mental health or behavioural issue in a child. CMHO’s nearly 100 centres across the province work with schools and families daily to help students. “When kids are treated on time and with the right mental health resources and support, they have the best outcomes,” said CMHO CEO Kimberley Moran. “Some Ontario children are waiting a year and a half for long-term therapy. Children’s behavioural and mental health issues do not stop at the end of a school day. A transformational change and investments are needed.”
According to Annie Kidder, Executive Director of People for Education, “Students in Ontario are engaging in new kinds of conversations with their teachers and themselves about what it means to be well—both physically and mentally—and Ontario is making strides in student well-being policy. But to be truly effective, policy must be backed up with sufficient resources.”
The Government of Ontario’s inclusion of mental health and well-being learning in its 2019 elementary and high school health curriculums is a good first step, and was noted in the report and applauded previously by CMHO, but more is needed. CMHO welcomes People for Education’s recommendations to continue to revise the Ontario curriculum to embed social-emotional skills for students, update funding to ensure equitable access to mental health professionals and that the province consult with principals, teachers, and professionals, across the province to develop long-term planning and policy for a ‘whole school’ approach.
CMHO also welcomes the opportunity to continue to work with educators, health-care professionals, families, youth and the government in improving policy to develop an integrated continuum of care of mental health well-being and services of children and youth in Ontario.
To download the People of Education report and news release, visit https://peopleforeducation.ca/
For more information about community-based child and youth mental health, visit https://www.cmho.org/