In a recent Canadian Teachers’ Federation survey, 95.4% of teachers told us to advocate for child and youth mental health.
There is growing recognition that mental health and well-being is an important factor influencing a student’s ability to succeed in school.
Among the findings of a 2012 survey of nearly 4,000 teachers conducted by CTF working in collaboration with the Mental Health Commission of Canada, respondents told us that mental health problems among children and youth – including attention deficit disorders, anxiety disorders, and depression – are becoming an increasingly important issue in public schools. Teachers told us however that numerous barriers exist to mental health service provision for students. These include an insufficient number of school-based mental health professionals; a lack of adequate staff training in dealing with children’s mental illness; and a lack of funding for school-based mental health services.
Most teachers also believe that stigma and discrimination pose a major barrier to the provision of mental health services for students. Only a minority of teachers could say that they had “never” witnessed unfair treatment of students (including bullying) because of a mental health problem.
Teachers support the need to continue and broaden the important conversation about child and youth mental illness and mental health in order to raise awareness, and reduce and ultimately eliminate harmful stigma. While teachers feel they are part of the solution, they clearly cannot do it without support.
The federal government can play a strong leadership role in supporting schools to both promote child and youth mental health and prevent and address mental illness.
In this regard we propose that:
- a Federal Ministry of Child and Youth Services be established to harmonize policy and provision of services with a wide range of stakeholders to improve outcomes for children, youth and families.
- $350 million be directed to provincial/territorial governments to fund grassroots initiatives that partner schools and community organizations in promoting/fostering child and youth mental health.
- effective mental health programs for children and youth, based on scientific research and promising practices, be supported and/or developed for distribution and implementation across Canada in concert with the provinces and territories.
- the Federal Government ensure that Canadian children have ready access to mental health services provided under provincial and territorial health insurance.
For more information:
Child and Youth Mental Health (PDF, 399 KB) – CTF Hill Day Brief, 2013.
Understanding Teachers’ Perspectives on Student Mental Health – Findings from a National Survey (PDF, 1.3 MB), Canadian Teachers’ Federation, 2012.
“Mental illness stigma a problem in our schools”, Heather Stuart, CTF Perspectives, April 2012.
“Mental health in schools: How teachers have the power to make a difference”, Leigh Meldrum, David Venn & Stan Kutcher, Health and Learning Magazine (PDF, 178 KB), May 2009.