Ontario Expanding Access to Student Mental Health Supports
TORONTO — The Ontario government is continuing to support students with expanded access to targeted mental health and well-being programs and services within local communities. Over the past two school years, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on children and students across the world, including right here in Ontario. These investments reinforce the government’s commitment to ensuring every student in the province can reach their full potential, and they build on historic funding announced in February to overcome the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We recognize that more than ever before, many students face mental health challenges, and we want them to know help is here,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “While our government increased school mental health funding to the highest levels, we are going further by supporting community partners to expand critical mental health resources, initiatives to reduce drug use and supports that will keep students safe on the road and in the classroom.”
Ontario’s investments will help create new or sustain existing mental health and well-being programs and resources led by community organizations. The investments, which are part of the government’s Priorities and Partnerships Funding COVID-19 Equity Supports, include:
$150,000 to Women’s Brain Health Initiative to deliver Brainable, a free education program about brain health for students in Grades 5 to 8. Taught in both official languages by an Ontario Certified Teacher, the program includes follow-up guides and activities that reinforce healthy brain habits for students, parents and teachers.
$92,105 to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to gain a better understanding of substance use trends — including the effect of substance use on school participation — on school-aged youth from an equity perspective. Funding will also go toward resources for those working with youth who are disconnected from school due to substance use difficulties in order to support their re-engagement with the school system.
$50,000 to the ministry’s implementation partner, School Mental Health Ontario, to collaborate with Eating Disorders Ontario (EDO) to develop promotion- and prevention-based resources in the area of eating disorders for use in Ontario’s Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools. This work aligns with efforts underway in other sectors being led by EDO.
$50,000 to MADD Canada to present an interactive harm-reduction program that informs young people of the risks associated with using cannabis and driving.
$25,000 to the Ontario Physical and Health Education Association (Ophea) to develop a vaping education resource, which includes options for educators and school community partners, including parents/caregivers, to navigate based on their individual needs (e.g., text-based resources, videos, short modules, etc.).
In addition to these investments, as part of Ontario’s $600-million Learning Recovery Action Plan for 2022-23, the province reaffirmed its commitment to support student resiliency and mental well-being by announcing it will invest more than $90 million, including $10 million in new funding, of which $5 million is to be used for evidence-based mental health programs and resources. This funding will help retain the existing mental health workers in schools, including the 180 mental health professionals who are providing critical supports directly to students in secondary schools across the province.
Furthermore, this investment will support the resiliency and mental well-being of all students and will enable school boards to continue to assist students who are experiencing mild to moderate mental health challenges that impact their learning.
The mental health components of the learning recovery plan include:
Mandatory professional development on mental health for educators
Working with the Ministry of Health to consult with stakeholders, including parents and students, to leverage the best available evidence on emerging student mental health needs and the potential of a graduation requirement on resilience and mental well-being
Continuing to support student resilience and well-being with the following goals:
mentally healthy classrooms and learning environments
effective and responsive school mental health and addictions supports
connections to the broader comprehensive system of mental health care.
As part of its Priorities and Partnerships Funding COVID-19 Equity Supports, the province previously announced investments toward mental health initiatives, including:
$200,000 to the Pinball Clemons Foundation to provide comprehensive social, athletic and academic programming and activities to marginalized and racialized youth
$150,000 to the Muslim Association of Canada to create new resources that address mental health and well-being issues in connection with racism, discrimination and the pandemic, including online courses, training modules, videos and a web-based tool for educators, mentors, newcomer students and parents
$48,950 to the Canadian Tamil Academy to provide Tamil students with information and resources to address mental health issues, cope with stress, build resilience and implement self-care strategies, while reducing the stigma around mental health in the Tamil community.
As part of the Safe Return to Class Fund, the Ontario government directed $6.4 million to support equity-related projects. This included funding to community organizations to address anti-Asian hate, antisemitism and Islamophobia, support for Black, Indigenous and 2SLGBTQI+ students, support for newcomer youth, parents and families to enhance access to school and community resources, and culturally appropriate mental health and well-being supports for youth, families and educators.
In addition to community-based mental health and addictions services, Ontario students have access to a strong foundation of school-based mental health supports across all 72 school boards.
"This is a critically important initiative because we know that youth with substance use difficulties face disproportionate challenges in school contexts, and there is more we can do to provide effective supports. By hearing directly from impacted youth, we will be better able to build meaningful solutions that reflect the diversity of Ontario’s youth."
- Dr. Joanna Henderson Director, Margaret and Wallace McCain Centre for Child, Youth & Family Mental Health; Senior Scientist, Child, Youth and Emerging Adult Program, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
"Supportive, weight inclusive, classroom wellness promotion — and knowledge building about risk factors and early warning signs — is an important part of eating disorder prevention. School Mental Health Ontario appreciates the opportunity to work alongside global leaders at Eating Disorders Ontario to support school-based eating disorder prevention efforts."
- Dr. Kathy Short Executive Director, School Mental Health Ontario
"Investing in the brain health of our children is essential for achieving not only healthy minds of today, but also healthy minds in the years to come. Research has shown that how we treat our brains as children can have a huge impact on our brain health as adults. With the demand to re-establish healthy habits after two years of social isolation and virtual learning, this investment in Brainable comes at a critical time. The Brainable program will bring invaluable information to students across Ontario, getting them back on track to protecting their brain health and decreasing their chances of developing brain-aging disease like dementia down the road."
- Lynn Posluns President, Women’s Brain Health Initiative
"Two years into the pandemic, we better understand the mental health impacts on children and students. This investment from the government of Ontario represents an opportunity to support educators and school community partners, including parents/caregivers, with opportunities to develop skills and strategies of children and students that will contribute to their ability to make healthy decisions now and into the future."
- Chris Markham Executive Director & CEO, Ophea
"Having opportunities for meaningful dialogue with young people about the effects of cannabis consumption, and especially the dangers of driving after cannabis use, are key to minimizing risk among youth. With this funding, MADD Canada will deliver the Weed Out The Risk educational program to thousands of Ontario students in Grades 9 through 12, providing them with the information and the inspiration to protect themselves and their peers from impaired driving."
- Dawn Regan Chief Operating Officer/Acting CEO, MADD Canada
"Teaching students about the dangers of impaired driving at a young age will enhance road safety. MADD Canada continues to conduct important work in my riding and across the province. The interactive program by MADD Canada will enhance safety through a greater understanding of risks involved to all road users."
- Stephen Crawford Member of Provincial Parliament for Oakville