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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 about understanding and building the skills to obtain and maintain good mental health, understanding the signs and symptoms of mental illness, decreasing stigma, and knowing when to get help or how to respond to others needing help.1 Building the mental health literacy of students through curriculum is an important role for schools, but we know that schools are doing more than this by focusing on school-wide mental health promotion.

We know from research that to be most effective, promoting mental health in schools 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

Educator Resource Guide (School Mental Health Ontario) Grades K-12
This guide from School Mental Health Ontario (SMHO) offers lesson plans and learning activities to help build student mental health literacy. Virtual field trips on stress management and coping strategies for all students are also available.

Everyday Mental Health Practices (SMHO) Grades K-12
Browse elementary, secondary or faith and wellness everyday mental health practices that can be easily incorporated into classroom routines. These practices address the 2019 H&PE Curriculum Social-Emotional Learning Skills. 

Kids Have Stress Too! and Stress Lessons (Psychology Foundation of Canada) Grades K-12
Strong Minds Strong Kids offers different classroom programs for both elementary and secondary grades. 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.

Mental Health and You Presentation (Hastings Prince Edward Public Health) Grades 9-12
This presentation from HPEPH provides a general overview of mental health, signs to watch for, seeking help, staying well and coping with stress. Teachers who wish to have a Public Health Nurse provide this presentation to their class may send an email to HPEPH will follow up to arrange a presentation.

School and Classroom Leadership

School Leaders Section (SMHO)
This section of the SMHO website offers a wealth of information, tools and resources for school leaders to build personal mental health literacy, to lead a mentally healthy school, and to create mentally healthy learning environments.  Access supports for including mental health and well-being in school improvement planning and assessing your school and creating an action plan.

Educator Section (SMHO)
Build your own knowledge with this section of the SMHO website. Here you will find 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.

Brain Story Toolkit (The Alberta Family Wellness Initiative)
This library of free resources will help you to learn the basics of child and youth brain development and mental health, stress, and resilience.  It’s a great place to start your learning journey!

Positive Mental Health Toolkit (Pan-Canadian Joint Consortium for School Health)
This free toolkit 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.

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

Social and Physical Environments

Mentally Healthy Schools and Classrooms
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. Access resources to reflect on your own practice and to build a mentally healthy classroom.

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.

Social-Emotional Learning Posters
School Mental Health Ontario offers a complete set of posters for both elementary and secondary grades. These posters help to create a mentally healthy classroom.  The posters align with the practices in the Everyday Mental Health resource and with the 2019 H&PE curriculum.

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.
This Canadian charity partners with youth leaders to improve mental health outcomes in their communities.  Visit the website to access information, resources, and to learn how to become an advocate in your school.  Get your Be There Certificate and learn how to support someone who is struggling with their mental health.
This website, created in partnership with youth, has interactive tools and innovative resources to build your knowledge and skills for positive mental health.  It is also home to the Be Safe App where you can get help to create a safety plan, find local places for support, and be prepared if you find yourself in crisis.

Bell Let’s Talk Day (January)
Students can lead campaigns in their school for Bell Let’s Talk Day using the tools from the website.

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

Home, School and Community Partnerships

Let’s Go to Kindergarten – Helping Your Child Manage Stress – VIDEO
Going to kindergarten is an exciting time that can be stressful for both parents and kids. In this video you will learn some strategies to help you identify stress in kids, and we will share some activities to help your child manage stress.

Parents and Caregivers Section (SMHO)
Parents and caregivers 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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