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Hastings and Prince Edward Public Health
Teenage girl talks to school counselor

Mental Health Literacy in Schools

Mental health literacy is the foundation for mental health promotion and addressing the mental health needs of young people. It’s about understanding how to obtain and maintain good mental health, understanding the signs and symptoms of mental illness, and knowing when to get help or how to respond to others needing help. Building the mental health literacy of students is important BUT we know from research that to be most effective, promoting mental health should be done using a whole school approach. This means all members of the school community work together to build a mentally healthy school – providing education, building partnerships, and creating positive school environments and policies that support mental well-being.

The Ministry of Education’s Foundations for a Healthy School framework supports this whole school approach.  Information below has been organized following this framework.

Curriculum, Teaching and Learning

Everyday Mental Health Classroom Resource (SMH0) (Grades K – 8)

This free resource offers high-quality everyday mental health practices that can be easily incorporated into classroom routines. It addresses the 2019 H&PE Curriculum social-emotional learning skills. Watch for the Faith and Wellness and Secondary versions to be released from School Mental Health Ontario soon.

Bell Let’s Talk in the Classroom (Grades 7 – 8, adaptable for grades 9 – 12)

This free online guide will prepare you to teach the three lessons that comprise the program, Let’s Talk in the Classroom: Finding Reliable Mental Health Information and Resources (LTIC). It covers the concepts of mental health literacy and well-being, stigma, and discussing mental health with students. The classroom lessons are linked in the document.

Psychology Foundation of Canada – Kids Have Stress Too! and Stress Lessons (Grades K-12)

Access different classroom programs for primary, junior, and intermediate divisions, youth ages 14-17 and even a parent program. Each set of curricula provides educators with strategies to help create an emotionally-healthy environment in their classroom by promoting self-regulation and effective stress-management skills and strategies. Costs associated for resources and training.

School and Classroom Leadership

School Mental Health Ontario – Educator Section

The SMHO Educator section offers evidence-based information and resources relevant to your role. Learn more about your part in creating mentally healthy classrooms and supporting students, boost your knowledge with an online course, and be prepared to act when you notice a student who needs more support.

Self-Regulation with Stuart Shanker

Stuart Shanker’s Self-Reg framework provides a shift in thinking in how we see children and youth and the impacts of different kinds of stresses they are struggling with. The framework looks at stress in five domains:  biological, emotion, cognitive, social, and prosocial.  Learn how to reframe how you see your students and their behaviours, moods, attention, and health.

Promoting Mental Health:  Finding a Shared Language – VIDEO

This video by CAMH Health Promotion Resource Centre explains the separate but interconnected concepts of mental health and mental illness, as well as what it means to ‘promote mental health’, in ourselves and in our communities.

One-Call Desk Reference (SMHO)

This is a step-by-step quick reference guide to help educators notice and support students when they show signs of an emotional or behavioural issue.

Social and Physical Environments

Mentally Healthy Schools and Classrooms (SMH0)

School Mental Health Ontario offers information about the importance of school and classroom environments on a student’s sense of belonging and overall mental health. Watch a 30-minute tutorial on creating and sustaining mentally healthy classrooms and access additional resources.

Search Institute Developmental Relationships Framework

It’s all about relationships! Visit the Search Institute to learn about Developmental Assets that help children and youth thrive and their latest research on Developmental Relationships. Learn about the five elements that make relationships powerful in young people’s lives.

JCSH Positive Mental Health Toolkit

This free toolkit from the Pan-Canadian Joint Consortium for School Health is a series of online modules that can help schools to promote positive mental health. The modules cover positive mental health, school connectedness, resiliency in school environments, school team relationships, and assessing comprehensive school health, which focuses on planning and steps to implement a school-wide positive mental health initiative.

Student Engagement

School Mental Health Ontario – Student Section

To really make a change in your school, students need to be engaged and have opportunities for leadership. The student section of the SMHO website provides information for students to learn more about mental health, self-care and staying well, common mental health problems, and how to take action to help themselves and others.

Mental Health Week

Visit the Canadian Mental Health Association for school toolkits to celebrate Mental Health Week. Get students involved in planning activities.

RNAO’s Youth Mental Health & Addiction Champion (YMHAC) Initiative Toolkit

The YMHAC Initiative uses a peer-led model where youth plan, implement, and evaluate activities within their school. The initiative focuses on mental health promotion, stigma reduction, and substance misuse prevention.

Home, School and Community Partnerships

School Mental Health Ontario – Parents and Families Section

Parents/Guardians play an important role in supporting child and youth mental health. Share the SMHO parent section to help the families of your students learn more about mental health.

Talking with Parents and Families about Mental Health

This School Mental Health Ontario tip sheet provides educators with ideas to consider when planning to meet and talk with parents and families.      

Additional Resources

News, Research and Reports RELATED TO: Educators, Sexual Health

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