Turn Up the Volume!
Did you know that it is estimated that One in Five Canadians will experience diagnosable mental illness at some point in their lives.
The interplay between success at school and emotional health cannot be ignored and speaks loudly to the need for educators, parents and the community to be active partners in supporting the mental wellness of our children and youth. May 1st – 7th is GET LOUD for Mental Health week in Canada. On May 3rd Albertans will be invited to join in stopping the discrimination and the stigma that often goes hand in hand with mental illness by wearing a hat to school to raise the importance of good mental health. Let’s use our voice to raise awareness and build support. We all have a key role to play!
The emergence of recommended universal proactive practices has shifted the focus from one of diagnosing and repairing weakness to a whole school and community approach of supporting the social-emotional development of all students. Collectively, we can all make a difference for our kids. We can support the emotional health of our children and youth through intentional evidence based practices. Two such practices that are found to support the emotional wellness of our youth include a focus on social-emotional learning and connectedness.
The explicit teaching of social-emotional competencies results in enhanced positive attitudes about self and others, strengthens connections to school, increases academic performance and reduces both externalizing and internalizing behaviours (Payton et al, 2008; Ashdown & Bernard, 2012). Evidence based curriculums such as Zones of Regulation, MindUP™, and the The Fourth R ensure that these competencies are explicitly taught and that opportunities for these competencies are then provided to be practiced throughout the day. Connecting parents to these programs through effective two-way communication ensures that a common language and skills can be reinforced and practiced in all areas of life, both at school and home. These core competencies are not only identified as protective factors contributing to emotional health and resiliency but also enhances connection to others, also considered to be an essential factor in supporting mental health.
Connectedness, closely related to the basic need of belonging, takes the intentional work of all stakeholders. Teaming of all stakeholders to develop connectedness is an essential structure in supporting the emotional well-being of our youth.
Where parents are positively and meaningfully involved in their child’s learning and connected with the school themselves influences students’ perception of the importance of school and engagement with school and teachers.
Is also essential, particularly as students get older and their peer group becomes more important. Friendship is a strong predictor of life outcomes and focusing on the development of pro-social attitudes through positive interactions with others is essential. In supporting quality of interactions, intentional practices such as classroom circles ensures every student’s voice is heard, empathy is developed, and quality relationships and interactions are fostered.
Or how students perceive themselves to be accepted by others in the educational environment, is also a key component. This can be supported by practices such as cooperative learning, participation in clubs and activities, utilizing a strengths based approach within the school and class, and providing a continuum of social-emotional and academic supports that ensure access to and success with curricular outcomes. Intentional actions that build relationships, such as the “2 X 10” strategy, which involves spending 2 minutes a day, 10 days in a row talking to a student about whatever they would like to talk about, also strengthens school connectedness.
Rounds out the circle of supports. Juvonen (2007) noted youth that can identify adults in the community that care about them experience a stronger sense of personal well-being. When youth feel safe, cared for and are provided opportunities to become connected to the community it broadens their sense of belonging. Furthermore, it provides the opportunity for further cultural connectedness, a strong predictor of emotional wellness.
Building protective factors, such as self-esteem, emotional resilience, positive thinking, problem-solving and social skills, stress management skills and feelings of mastery help to buffer negative factors in the lives of children and youth. We also need to get LOUD about removing the stigma associated with mental illnesses as it is one of the greatest barriers to treatment, recovery and societal acceptance. This takes a team approach of students, staff, families and communities. Let’s work together Foothills to raise awareness, increase access to mental health resources and eliminate barriers to achieving full inclusion in society, by GETTING LOUD during Mental Health Week (May 1 - 7):
- Foothills Community – Get Loud! http://toolkit.mentalhealthweek.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/PUBLICTOOLKIT_FINAL_REVISED-April-19-2017.pdf
- Staff and students in Foothills School Division – Get Loud! http://toolkit.mentalhealthweek.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/SCHOOLTOOLKIT_FINAL_REVISED-April-19-2017.pdf
- Access free resource from Pearson during Mental Health week: http://www.pearsoncanadaschool.com/index.cfm?locator=PS318i
- Staff, students, parents and Foothills community – Get Loud! Tweet #GetLoud to share how you’re getting loud during mental health week.
By: Loriann Salmon, Director of Inclusive Learning