Alberta students will have more access to mental health support as dozens of pilot projects begin this month.
The state government has approved 60 projects as part of a $40 million two-year initiative, with the second call for proposals closing on January 31.
The pilot project is a collaborative effort between mental health service providers and school authorities to use data to tailor services to the unique needs of local student populations.
Emily Peckham, spokeswoman for Alberta’s Minister of Education, said in an email to CBC News:
“The pilot project will allow us to use this initial funding to determine the most effective practices, supports and services before addressing future government policy and funding decisions in the area of student mental health. We can, and it will benefit all school authorities in the state,” Peckham said.
“Given the important relationship between positive mental health and academic success, schools play a key role in developing the student body as a whole.”
trauma informed school
The Northland School Division (NSD) oversees 19 schools on a sprawling estate operating in Peace River, Alta. About 500 kilometers north of Edmonton.
The department was awarded a $500,000 grant to recruit two mental health therapists as part of an initiative aimed at making schools more trauma-informed.
Providing trauma information will help staff better deal with the effects of recent events such as floods, fires and pandemics, as well as the intergenerational traumas that affect students. Almost all of her 2000 students in this department are indigenous.
In an interview Wednesday, Director of Student Services Stephanie Sutherland said, “They will have different triggers.
“They will behave differently in our classrooms, and we have to think differently when working with them.
Current mental health staff will be trained in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), a form of treatment aimed at helping people heal from traumatic events.
Sutherland said that providing services within the community helps staff build trust and respond from an informed location, while also working with students’ families.
“So there’s this relationship of ‘I feel safe even though I’m vulnerable down this road’…in some of our communities, because mental health staff are actually from those communities.” , I understand the trauma that community faces,” said Sutherland.
mental health literacy
St. Albert Public Schools and Edmonton Catholic Schools Division is one of 13 divisions piloting a project to promote mental health literacy for students in grades 4-6.
Developed by the Board in partnership with Alberta Health Services, the Curriculum Resource Guide helps guide teachers in discussions on topics such as stress management and mental health disorders.
Christine Meadows, spokesperson for Edmonton Catholic Schools, said a recent study showed that departments need to strengthen students’ stress management skills and help-seeking behaviour.
At the high school and middle school levels, St. Albert’s schools have introduced similar resource guides developed primarily by Dr. Stan Kutcher of Dalhousie University in Halifax.
“This approach is research and evidence-based and is not meant to diagnose anything, but rather to help you understand what mental health is, how to maintain good mental health, when to seek help, and more. And it’s meant to understand what mental health disorders are.
“Last year, AHS and the University of Calgary released curriculum resources developed for elementary school students. [received] We got feedback and were ready to pilot it in Alberta,” said Power.
“I agreed to participate in the pilot because of my past involvement and my belief in the value of the approach.”