Improving supports for students is the focus of inaugural two-day mental-health conference

Posted in:

For the first time, representatives of B.C.’s public, independent and First Nations schools, police, health authorities, and child and youth mental-health workers have come together under one roof, focused on how to make life better for students struggling with mental-health issues.

More than 300 educators and community partners are gathered in Richmond on May 10-11, 2018, to work together to improve mental-health supports for B.C. students as part of the Ministry of Education’s inaugural two-day School Community Mental Health Conference.

“We know there’s a gap in student success for those that struggle with mental-health issues. We must all take action now to support young people and provide intervention strategies earlier,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education. “That’s why we’re bringing together our partners for this first-of-a-kind mental-health conference. We are committed to moving forward together to make positive changes in the lives of B.C. students.”

The conference is providing an opportunity for those in attendance to network, participate in facilitated workshops and working groups, panel discussions, keynote addresses and presentations focused on helping them build the capacity of their school-community teams to better support child and youth mental health, with an emphasis on prevention and early intervention.

“Young people are the future of our province and ensuring their positive mental health is vitally important,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “What we learn from this conference is critically important to developing our ministry’s plan for child and youth mental health, focused on prevention and early intervention to support our kids.”

Students shared their personal journey navigating mental health, expressing their sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), and being in government care. Renowned youth mental-health experts, Patricia Peterson and Monique Allain of the University of New Brunswick, and Dr. Stan Kutcher of Dalhousie University, were among those called upon to share their evidence-based approaches and lessons learned in their respective communities related to improving supports for mental health in schools.

“School is a perfect place for creating supportive environments where students feel connected and can develop skills to enhance their overall mental wellness and access supports at an early stage, if needed. We know that the earlier you invest in mental health and wellness, the better results you have in terms of life outcomes and health outcomes.” said Sarah Bell, provincial executive director, Mental Health Programs, at BC Children’s Hospital.

During the conference, Fleming announced the Ministry of Education’s plan to expand ERASE (Expect Respect and a Safe Education) to include emerging issues facing students and their school communities today, including mental health and wellness, social media and SOGI.

Starting in September 2018, ERASE will include new resources and training for students, parents, educators and community partners focused specifically on social media, mental health and wellness; stronger information-sharing between school districts and local law enforcement agencies; an improved anonymous safety reporting tool; and a provincial SOGI advisory group comprised of education partners.

Quick Facts:

  • B.C. is marking the 67th annual Mental Health Week May 7-13. The 12th annual Child and Youth Mental Health Day was May 7.
  • Approximately 84,000 school-aged children (one in eight students) experience one or more mental-health disorders at any given time. Only one-third receives specialized treatment.
  • There are currently 15,075 (2.3%) students with mental-illness/behaviours designations in B.C. schools, a 14% increase since 2013-14 in both categories:
    • 8,521 students designated in Intensive Behaviour Interventions/Serious Mental Illness Category; and,
    • 6,554 students designated Moderate Behaviour Support/Mental Illness.
  • Supports in B.C. public schools include:
    • 3,200 special education resource teachers;
    • 180 educational psychologists (registered with B.C. Association of School Psychologists); and
    • 918 school counsellors.
  • More than 90 additional school counsellors have been hired throughout the province since the beginning of this school year.
  • The completion rate for students with mental-illness/behaviour designations in 2016-17 was 55.7%, which was 28.3% below the provincial rate.
  • ERASE is a comprehensive prevention and intervention strategy designed to foster school connectedness, address bullying, prevent violence and provide support to school districts during critical incidents.
  • Since its launch in 2012, ERASE has trained more than 17,000 school district staff and community partners, and more than 700 incidents have been reported through its incident reporting tool.

Learn More:

About ERASE (Expect Respect and a Safe Education): www.erasebullying.ca