BURLINGTON — Following a motion in the legislature by Natalie Pierre, Member of Provincial Parliament for Burlington, to strengthen mental health learning and supports in the classroom, the Ontario government is updating the Grade 10 Career Studies curriculum and is introducing mandatory resources for teachers and students on mental health literacy in Grades 7 and 8. These resources, developed in consultation with experts, would support students as they achieve and prepare for the next steps in their future.
Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, and MPP Pierre also announced an additional $12 million this year and $14 million next year to provide mental health services over the summer months. This funding will further students’ access to school-based mental health professionals and services year-round, with the aim of providing students consistent and reliable support, responding to a key recommendation of families and student trustees.
“We know that strengthening mandatory mental health literacy in the curriculum is the right thing to do. Natalie Pierre is a strong advocate and MPP, but most of all she is a mother driven to ensure we prevent tragedies and save lives,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “That is why it is so critical that all students learn healthy coping strategies, stress management and better recognition of the early signs. We want children to have the tools and confidence to succeed in the classroom and to always know that they are not alone.”
Announced at the start of National Mental Health Week and proposed for introduction in schools in the next school year, the new mandatory mental health literacy resources will include:
New learning materials for Grade 7 and 8 students that are aligned with the Health and Physical Education curriculum. This includes important tools like student activities, videos and interactive programming and information that will help students learn how to manage stress, understand the relationship between mental health and mental illness, recognize the signs and symptoms of a mental health concern, counteract mental health stigma and know when and how to get help.
Mandatory learning on mental health literacy for Grade 10 students will start in fall 2024 and will include how to recognize signs of being overwhelmed or struggling, as well as where to find help locally when needed. This will be included in the Career Studies course.
“Improving mental health literacy in schools is a critical part of building the resiliency skills that our children and youth need to grow up to be happy and healthy adults,” said Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “There is no health without mental health. By providing schools these resources, we can lower stigma and improve connections to the community sector where students and their families can access Ontario’s continuum of care.”
The Ontario government is also announcing an increase in mental health funding in schools to a historic $114 million in 2023-24, representing an over 500 per cent increase since 2018.
$50.4 million to help school boards meet local needs and priorities related to mental health, including professional development, student engagement, wellness promotion and mental health professionals
$26.5 million to hire permanent mental health workers in secondary schools
$10.8 million for mental health leaders in school boards who collaborate with community partners to provide integrated student mental health services
$6.5 million to School Mental Health Ontario to provide clinical expertise, resources and practical tools for educators, and the delivery of professional learning to school-based mental health clinicians
$3.75 million towards mental health supports for racialized and marginalized students
$2 million to increase awareness for parents and guardians on student mental health
$2 million to support emerging student mental health needs, including initiatives that promote healthy behaviours such as the prevention and awareness of substance use and addiction.
The new learning on mental health aligns with Ontario’s nation-leading updated 2019 Health and Physical Education Curriculum that includes learning on mental health literacy in every grade.
To date, over $525 million in funding has been provided as part of the Roadmap to Wellness to improve the quality and access to mental health supports while shortening wait times and removing gaps in service. This includes over $130 million for child and youth mental health services and supports. In addition to expanding services and launching the “One Stop Talk” virtual counselling program for youth and their families, our government has also
significantly expanded the number of Youth Wellness Hubs across the province to make it faster and easier for youth to connect with primary care, mental health and substance use support, social services and more.
This past fall, the government consulted with parent and student groups, educators, community-based child and youth mental health organizations and school-based mental health professionals to discuss ways to further improve student mental health supports. Ontario will continue to work with community partners to build a stronger continuum of care, so students have access to appropriate mental health services when they need it.
The Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act, 2023 was introduced two weeks ago and would, if passed, give the Minister of Education the authority to issue policies and guidelines for school boards respecting student mental health.
School Mental Health Ontario is a provincial organization that provides school boards with student mental health evidence-informed resources, programs and professional training.
The Grade 10 Career Studies course is a compulsory course requirement towards the Ontario Secondary School Diploma.
Through the Roadmap to Wellness: A Plan to Build Ontario’s Mental Health and Addictions System, Ontario is better connecting people to mental health services that are convenient for them, including strengthening the continuity of mental health care for youth in schools and in the broader community.
In the 2023 Budget, the government committed an additional $425 million over three years to support mental health and addictions services, including a five per cent increase in the base funding of community-based mental health and addictions services providers funded by the Ministry of Health.
"The mental health and well being of students continues to be a priority for our government. I am beyond thrilled and proud that our government is introducing mandatory mental health education in our schools. Mental health literacy can be taught just like any other subject in school, and we know that students who receive appropriate supports have improved academic success. Our government is getting it done by leading the way in Canada to make mental health education a required part of elementary and secondary school education."
- Natalie Pierre
MPP for Burlington
"Addictions and Mental Health Ontario (AMHO) recognizes the critical importance of supporting children and youth's mental health, including through education. With a comprehensive and connected system of mental health care in Ontario we can ensure timely access to the services and treatment that kids need. We welcome the government's focus on child and youth mental health and are committed to working with all partners in government to build a system that is there for our youth when they need it most."
- Alisha Tharani
Chief Executive Officer, Addictions and Mental Health Ontario
"Kids Help Phone knows firsthand that young people are struggling with their mental health, the need for support is greater than ever. These additional investments for increased community based mental health programs and services are important, necessary and welcome – it is great news! As Canada’s only 24/7 multi-lingual e-mental health service offering free, confidential support to young people, Kids Help Phone is proud to continue to work alongside the Ontario Government to maximize access and to support students and youth of all ages, no matter how they identify – unlocking hope for young people to thrive in their world."
- Katherine Hay
Chief Executive Officer, Kids Help Phone
"Children’s Mental Health Ontario has always advanced a comprehensive system of mental health care, where children and youth have access to the supports and treatment they need, when and where they need it – at schools, at home and in the community. We welcome Minister Lecce’s attention to child and youth mental health and look forward to working with government to ensure that the full system of care, including the community sector, is appropriately supported, so that all kids and families have timely access to high quality mental health care."
- Tatum Wilson
Chief Executive Office, Children’s Mental Health Ontario
"School Mental Health Ontario welcomes these additional investments to promote student mental health. The important new curriculum offerings to enhance mental health literacy in grades 7, 8 and 10 will help to equip every student with identity-affirming, research-based knowledge, skills and strategies to support their mental health and wellness. These investments acknowledge and support the critical role of educators in mental health promotion, and also appreciate the role of school mental health professionals in prevention and early intervention service delivery, as part of a wider system of care alongside community and health partners."
- Theresa Kennedy
Associate Director, School Mental Health Ontario (Seconded Superintendent with Responsibility for Mental Health)