Enhanced mental health programs support a safe return to school
Students and staff will head back to school with more resources available to support mental wellness during the unprecedented school year ahead.
“The excitement that normally comes with back to school may feel more uncertain this year, as many families worry about COVID-19 and keeping everyone safe,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “These feelings are understandable. Nobody should have to face their worries alone, which is why we are investing in more mental health supports to help students, parents and educators navigate a safe return to school.”
The Province is boosting funds immediately for school-based wellness programs and supports by $2 million, topping up the $8.8-million investment over three years that was announced last September. This means that for the 2020-21 school year, school districts and independent school authorities will receive a total of $3.75 million to promote mental wellness and provide additional supports for students, families and educators as they work together to get through this challenging time.
“Now more than ever, we must actively support student mental health and wellness,” said Rob Fleming, Minister of Education. “This added investment will help us deliver immediate resources to schools, students and families so that our students can get the help they need to reach their full potential, now and into their bright futures.”
School districts will determine how funds are used based on their individual needs to help students adjust to this year’s challenges. Funds may be used to enhance staff training, student workshops, family information nights or to develop new resource materials for educators and families. Mental health programs will also be expanded this year to include staff well-being, in addition to a focus on trauma-informed practices that build capacity for good mental health now and for years to come.
Surveys show that many people in British Columbia are experiencing an increase in mental health and substance use challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially those with pre-existing conditions. Government reminds British Columbians that help is available for people of all ages, and there is strength in seeking support.
“It’s important for people to know that it’s okay to not be okay, especially during these extremely challenging times,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development. “With this funding, young people of all ages and their parents can get more support from our many programs and services that help keep students on the path to success.”
As families, teachers and staff prepare for a school year that looks very different, help is available if worries begin to feel unmanageable. Free and low-cost counselling services are available online, by video and phone through programs such as BounceBack, Living Life to the Full, Here2Talk, Foundry’s virtual services and more, for anyone who needs someone to talk to.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Province has invested $6 million to expand existing mental health programs and launch new services in response to the extraordinary situation.
Improving mental health in schools is an integral part of government’s plan to build a comprehensive system of mental health and addictions care that British Columbians deserve, as outlined in A Pathway to Hope, B.C.’s roadmap for making mental health and addictions care better for people in British Columbia.
Implementing A Pathway to Hope is a shared priority with the BC Green Party caucus and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.