Mental Health is an issue that affects everyone, and has a large impact on well-being. A young person’s environment is a main factor that impacts their mental health, emphasizing the importance that schools and educational facilities play in youth mental health. Youth aged 15-24 are at the highest risk, amongst all other age groups, of having a mental disorder. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), 34% of Ontario high-school students indicate a moderate-to-serious level of psychological distress. However, there is currently no framework in place for individual schools in the city nor is there mandatory training for teachers to assist students with their mental health. The lack of support systems within schools is of great concern to the Toronto Youth Cabinet.
The Toronto Youth Cabinet believes that it is of growing importance for schools in the TDSB and TCDSB to bring a focus to the mental health of their students because of the large impact that mental health has during adolescence. By laying a framework for healthy lifestyles, both physically and mentally, schools can set up students for a healthy adulthood and teach students how to manage their mental health for the future.
The Toronto Youth Cabinet calls upon the TDSB and TCDSB to place a heavier focus on the mental health of their students through individual frameworks within schools. This includes:
Mandatory classes for educators and teaching assistants on student mental health and how to assist students experiencing mental illness (e.g. what teachers should do if a student with an anxiety disorder has to do a class presentation)
Implementing a framework for individual schools that covers the referral of students to healthcare professionals and mandatory pathways of assistance schools must take to ensure students are adequately supported (e.g. if a student needs time off of mental health reasons, or if a student asks for help regarding their suspicion of a illness)
Implementation of education within the health curriculum in schools for all students regarding on coping with stress, loss, and anxiety. The curriculum must have a focus on:
mental health education for all youth, not just those experiencing mental illness
reducing stigma through encouraging open discussion
notifying students and parents of available resources for support
taking a more proactive approach to youth mental health
relationship building during adolescence, including teacher-student, peers, friendship and romantic relationships, and teaching youth how to develop empathy and an awareness of the life experiences of others.
teaching educators on building teacher-parent relationships, to assist them to become comfortable in reaching out to parents if they have any concerns
factors relevant to the digital age, and teaching youth how to navigate social media and online communication
Failing to teach young people how to manage their mental health and to develop healthy relationships is detrimental to the lives of all young people. According to the US National Library of Medicine, negative mental health, low self-esteem and addiction at adolescence is correlated with depression in later years of adulthood. By promoting healthy discussion regarding mental health in a learning environment, the TDSB and TCDSB are able to reduce the stigma regarding seeking help and to reduce the barriers that already exist in accessing necessary supports.