Student and staff mental health is an important focus as a new school year begins next week.
Schools can expand mental health programs and services and introduce new supports thanks to a one-time investment of $5 million by the Government of B.C. This builds on the $15.9-million investment in mental health programs and services over four years.
“While we know families and students are looking forward to being back at school, we recognize there is some anxiety about what it will look like. We need to have programs and services for students and staff,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education. “We know British Columbians have faced new and unique challenges over the course of the pandemic. These new funds will help school districts to support student and staff mental health in ways that are tailored to their communities.”
Schools and districts can use this one-time, pandemic-related mental health funding for a variety of programs and supports to help build resilience and emotional, physical and mental well-being. For example, funds may be used to support compassionate-systems leadership and trauma-informed practice training for educators, additional mental health resources and increased access to experts.
Students can experience increased opportunities to connect with Elders and Knowledge Keepers to provide additional social, cultural and emotional support, peer-to-peer supports and initiatives using outdoor, natural spaces for lessons.
In May 2021, the Ministry of Education established a Mental Health School Start-up Working Group, including the BC Centre for Disease Control, BC Teachers Federation, First Nations Education Steering Committee, Doctors of BC and WorkSafeBC. The group worked to identify the impacts of the pandemic and best practices to address those impacts in schools. It also developed a resource: Key Principles and Strategies for K-12 Mental Health Promotion in Schools.
In addition to these new supports, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions launched a website this week focused on supporting British Columbians’ mental health and well-being. The website includes a youth mental health resources hub with links to access free counselling, legal help, resources and always available confidential support lines. To learn more, visit: https://wellbeing.gov.bc.ca/
“The pandemic has been so hard on the mental health of B.C. students and educational staff,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “As we prepare for the beginning of the school year, we are expanding mental health supports so that B.C. schools have the resources they need to foster well-being. We are directing funding to local programs, so schools and districts can better provide the supports students and their educators need most.”
More mental health resources are available for students, staff and families through Erase (expect respect and a safe education), a program focused on building safe and caring school communities. The Erase site offers tools to empower students, educators and families dealing with complex issues like mental health, racism, substance use and bullying. The site also includes connections to mental health services and resources.
- This $5 million in one-time mental health funding is part of $25.6 million in new, one-time pandemic-specific funding initially announced in June 2021. In addition to the mental health support, these funds will also provide:
- $14.4 million for health and safety, cleaning and supplies;
- $5 million to support Indigenous students and build capacity within First Nations Education Steering Committee and Métis Nation BC; and
- $1.2 million for independent schools.
Read the mental health working group resource, Key Principles and Strategies for K-12 Mental Health Promotion in Schools:
Find resources to support well-being and mental health: https://wellbeing.gov.bc.ca/
Read the Mental Health in Schools Strategy:
To learn more about the B.C. government’s Erase strategy to build safe and caring school communities, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/erase