Gateway Gazette

FSD: Let’s Talk Mental Health

By Pam Rannelli, Director of Inclusive Learning, Foothills School Division

The Bell Let’s Talk Campaign, held on January 28, is a nationwide initiative to support and spread the word of the importance of mental health to the well-being of all Canadians. The initiative is intended to raise awareness of mental health and encourage conversations in our homes, schools and communities about how we can end the stigma connected to mental health issues, and support each other in raising awareness and finding resources.

In Foothills School Division we believe that all children should be given hope and opportunity to reach their full potential. To be successful in learning, all children need to have not only physical health and well-being but good mental health. This includes the ability to build healthy positive relationships, have the knowledge, attitudes and skills to recognize and manage their emotions, and be resilient when faced with difficulties. Children and youth with a positive mental outlook are better equipped to demonstrate caring and concern for others, make responsible decisions, and constructively problem-solve their way through challenging situations.

Some children and youth experience anxiety, stress, depression, elevated levels of substance abuse and other mental distress that can impede their success in learning. Supports for all students that are experiencing challenges are available.

All schools in Foothills School Division utilize a Comprehensive School Health Approach. This not only includes healthy living initiatives such as physical activity and healthy eating but an emphasis on building safe and caring learning environments that promote belonging, acceptance, leadership and co-operation. Teaching and learning in the classroom focus on the diverse needs of students and promote the acceptance of differences. Many schools are also directly teaching skills of social and emotional learning which includes: self-management; self-awareness; social awareness; building healthy relationships; and responsible decision making. To learn more about Social Emotional Learning and why it is critical to academic success check out http://www.casel.org/social-and-emotional-learning/

In addition to what happens in the classroom and school-wide, every school in the division has a trained Family School Liaison Counsellor as part of their school team. These professionals can provide short term counselling for students and their families to help support them in solving problems or issues that are impacting student learning. They can also help families connect with outside agencies and supports that can provide more intensive support to a student and/or their family. If you have concerns regarding the emotional or mental well-being of your child always feel free to contact your child’s classroom teacher and/or school principal. All school teams want to work collaboratively and in partnership with parents to support student success. As the Bell Let’s Talk Campaign promotes – “Let’s Talk!”

Resources for Mental Health and Wellness:

  • Mental Health and Wellness Alberta – This website provides information on how to access services and provides links to additional resources, information about health and wellness, programs, services and facilities, supports and networks.
  • Healthy Children, Healthy Minds – Resources for families wanting to access more information about mental health and children.
  • Family and Community Education Resource Centre – The Community Education Services (CES) provides parents/caregivers and other community members with opportunities to access free, evidence-informed education sessions and resource materials on child, youth and family health and mental health needs.
  • Mental Health Matters – Offers resources, strategies, tools, and learning and teaching resources to support the promotion of positive mental health among children, youth and their families.

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