Tuesday, January 26, 2016

MENTAL HEALTH ASSISTANCE AND SUPPORT IN OUR SCHOOLS

"A new Liberal government is committed to providing focused mental health assistance and support to children and schools, and determining what is the appropriate ratio of school counsellors. "

"A new Liberal government under my leadership will develop a mental health and addictions strategy that will engage the education system as a primary delivery mechanism for mental health services."

"The education of our children will not be compromised by things like the volatility of commodity prices under a new Liberal government."

Premier Dwight Ball
2015 Liberal Party Election Platform

                                                                    

As a parent, it is unimaginable to comprehend the grief faced by parents of the victims of a the shootings last Friday in La Lochee, Two teenage brothers and two teachers were murdered by a 17-year old introvert who had a history of being bullied.

The news that a school shooting had resulted in fatalities sent shivers up my spine. K-12 school shootings in this country are fairly rare. The last one I recall occurred at WR Myers High School in Taber, Alberta in 1999. A 14-year old boy in Grade 9 shot three students, one fatally. A quick Google found another at WC Jeffreys Collegiate in Toronto that left a 15-year-old boy dead in 2015.

The news evoked memories of the deaths of 20 children and six staff members during the December 2012 shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn) released an eye-popping statistic last fall stating that there has been one school shooting a week in America since the Sandy Hook shootings.

This senseless loss of life may never be understood. The impact of the tragedy impossible to gauge as the small town comes to grip the reality of what occurred. This could have happened in any town or any school in Canada. 

The tragedy made me reflect on the complexities of the mental health challenges facing children and teachers in our own province's schools. 

Adolescence is a time when many new behaviours begin to emerge, including changes in attention, motivation and risk-taking behaviour.

The statistics regarding youth mental health problems are staggering. According to studies, approximately twenty percent of young people may be suffering from some form of mental disorder that include: depression; schizophrenia; anorexia nervosa; bipolar disorder; panic disorder. 

Mental disorders represent the most common and disabling condition affecting young people and therefore have major implications for students and for schools.

The mental health of our school aged population was the focus of much discussion and debate during the recent provincial election. 

 has been lobbying for enhanced mental health care in our schools through better school curriculum on mental health, the reduction of stigma, teacher training, better supports, the introduction of more mental health councillors and a significant increase in the number of guidance councillors in our schools. 

There are just aren't enough counsellors in schools to help students. The current ratio of counsellors to students in our schools is 1:500. It has been that way for over 20 years, despite a decade of lobbying to reduce that ratio to 1:300. 

We feel this ratio would allow counsellors more time to deal with behavioral issues, substance abuse and mental health issues.

The lack of  is one of the most pressing issues in schools across our province, yet successive governments have not had a handle on it. 

Mental health is as important as physical health. Government needs to stop talking about mental health supports and commit to improving the Guidance Counsellor allocation.

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