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Mental Health Supporting Our Youth
This week, our school district hosted a Speaker Series event in partnership with CHEO. This is part of our ongoing commitment to provide parents with access to professional experts in student learning and well-being. We are fortunate to have great community partners like CHEO who share our commitment to supporting children and families in our community.
The focus was on mental health promotion and prevention - how and where families can access help when needed.
This is such important information because there are 206,000 children and youth in the City of Ottawa and 1 in 5 youth experience mental health challenges. In addition to CHEO, our partners include, among others, the Youth Services Bureau, the Royal Ottawa, the United Way, Children’s Aid and the other Ottawa school boards. All of us work closely together to support children in our schools.
The panel presentation, introduced by Dr. Petra Dueshner our own mental health expert, and moderated by Alex Munter included three experts Dr. Phil Ritchie, Dr. Neil Gottheil and Dr. Clare Gray, and the focus of the evening was built around questions that parents submitted in advance.
A few themes emerged. As a parent myself, I found them interesting and would like to share them with you.
1. Talk to your children- listen to their questions, concerns, understand from their point of view, try not to criticize and judge.
2. Build resilience - the rate of anxiety and self harm behaviour in youth is very high for a number of reasons, so we need to work on building resilience, healthy social relationships and good problem solving. Parents can support the building of resilience by modeling (demonstrating) healthy coping for our children, talking to children about coping strategies and providing them with opportunities to "figure it out" on their own. It's important to show confidence in their ability, judgement and problem solving because this builds children's confidence in their ability to cope.
3. Access community resources - as parents if you need help, start with community resources - schools, family doctors, community mental health agencies. There are a range of professionals in our community who can help you navigate the system and get you access to resources.
As a school district, we have a strong focus on well-being and mental health is a key element of that work. On a daily basis, our staff work to create an inclusive, safe and caring environment in all of our schools. As caring adults, we focus on promoting positive student behaviour, encouraging the use of a collaborative problem solving approach with students with a focus on character education, and bullying prevention.
We also focus on building resilience - working with educators to increase their awareness, knowledge and skills in promoting resilience in their students. This year, we are running a pilot program with our early learners in 6 schools on enhancing or building resilience skills.
We are working on developing mental health literacy for our educators - building their understanding of mental health promotion as well as helping them to identify students who might have mental health problems and connecting those students with appropriate services and supports.
We are passionate in our commitment to student well-being. We also know that 'it takes a village' to do this work. We welcome our parents and community agencies as partners to ensure that we can support the 'one in five' children in need of mental health services AND reduce that number.
Secretary of the Board