By: Evan Rogers, Youth Mental Health Advocate
Over the last year, my passion for mental health in the education system has increased greatly. It is in my opinion that the education system has the greatest opportunity to help youth with their mental health. Although full responsibility should not be placed on the education system, the opportunity to connect to youth at school is immense. Over the past year, I have been thinking about the idea of well-being clubs in schools. The Ontario Student Trustees Association, has released a set of policy level recommendations that include the government enshrining the right to create a well-being committee in each school. I feel that if this was to occur, many schools would adopt the concept and collaborate to help improve mental health in their schools.
Another reason I feel that mental health should be better addressed in schools is because youth rank school as one of the leading factors that affect their mental health. I feel that if issues were addressed at a system level that improvement would be seen quicker and at higher quality. We also would see improvement because the needs of each area for youth are so much different. We commonly see the theme of issues in northern ontario that relate to accessibility, quality of services and other things in both education and mental health services.
Another improvement I would like to see in the mental health aspect of education is increased funding for support workers. The funding formula for guidance counsellors are vastly different than those of secondary schools. I feel that the funding formula needs to better represent the needs of elementary and secondary schools. Another integral part of education is special education. We see more and more, more students requiring supports that are outside of the mainstream student. The lack of funding over the years has resulted in students not getting the support they require to reach their full potential.
Overall, the lack of support from the provincial government in the last decade is finally coming to light to have the conversations needed to fix it. The hashtag #kidscantwait has been recognized by many and steps are being taken to implement solutions to address the issues surrounding the youth mental health crisis in ontario. Finally, it is in my humble opinion, that a major step to improving the state of youth mental health, we need to look to the education system.