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Schools & Child Care

Positive mental health in schools

Promoting Positive Mental Health in Schools

Positive mental health is defined as "the capacity of each and all of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. It is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual well-being that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections and personal dignity." (Public Health Agency of Canada).

The health unit recommends following the Aligned and Integrated Model (AIM) for school mental health and well-being form School Mental Health Assist. The model adapts the Foundations for a Healthy School framework to support the promotion of mental health and well-being at school.

Use a comprehensive approach. To promote mental health and well-being in your school, select a variety of action plan ideas from each of the AIM model sections below:

  • Follow this checklist to assist you in moving your school towards meeting the 10 organizational conditions for school mental health.
  • Schools in Ontario are flooded with products, speakers, videos and books that claim to address their students' mental health needs. It can be hard to know where to start. Visit the School Mental Health Assist website for a Decision Support Tool to help you select mental health promotion activities on your school.
  • Promote a strengths–based approach that supports increasing students’ developmental assets. Check out Search Institute and Lion's Quest Canada.
  • Plan activities for Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week (November), Bucket fillers program, Ministry of Education Student Voice "Speak Up" projects for youth and Photo Voice projects.
  • Encourage peer mentoring programs such as Link Crew.
  • Create and support youth-led initiatives that address social and economic issues (local or global) and apply an equity and accessibility lens to all aspects of your school community.
  • Ask about training and other supports to implement social and emotional learning curriculum in your classroom.

  • “Can You Feel It?” This program supports students with building the necessary life skills to manage and cope with stress in their everyday lives. Healthy Schools public health nurses can work with schools to incorporate “Can You Feel It?” as part of a comprehensive strategy to building resiliency and positive mental health.
  • Healthy Playground Activity Leaders in Schools (Healthy P.A.L.S.) – This is a playground leadership program for elementary schools that encourages all children to participate in activities regardless of their gender, size, or ability. Dedicated school staff are trained to supervise the program and junior and intermediate students are trained to act as playground activity leaders for younger students. The Healthy P.A.L.S. leaders will plan and lead fun and safe activities on the playground. Contact the health unit for more information.
  • Organize whole-school activities such as; student clubs (including GSA's), Pink shirt day, Bullying Awareness and Prevention Week (November), theme for a week/month and youth-led initiatives like Social Justice clubs and Photo Voice.
  • Plan for no-cut sports programs.
  • Post signs at reception that school values family time, energy, and commitment to partnering with families.

  • Involving students in designating a quiet place to practice stress management techniques, (e.g. build a peace garden, relaxation room, lounge).
  • Creating a resource section in the library on positive mental health promotion and mental illness including support services.
  • Displaying relevant resources from community service providers for families.
  • Offer health unit newsletter inserts, many are related to positive mental health promotion, to raise awareness among your school community.
  • Create a chill room or hallway and welcoming policies; host a chill fair; promote classroom calming; put up bathroom kindness posters and promote mindfulness and taking part in martial arts/yoga classes.
  • Explore Date to Dream funding.
  • Support student self-regulation through an enhanced Student Nutrition Program.
  • Positive Mental Health Toolkit – Designed to promote positive mental health perspectives and practices within the school. The toolkit is meant to facilitate a shift in practice and to assist in engaging school and community strengths to foster the positive growth and development of children and youth.
  • YouThrive Toolkit - A free web-based resource for those who work with youth. Toolkit is designed for people who want to create communities where young people can thrive, be happy, healthy and safe.
  • Teen Mental Health – Contains information and resources for educators relating to school mental health, school curriculum, art and the mind and the body and the mind.
  • Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) – CAMH conducts the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey every two years with Grade 7-12 students.
  • CAMH Promoting Mental Health:  Finding a Shared Language video - excellent video explaining the interconnected concepts of mental health and mental illness, as well as what it means to 'promote mental health' in ourselves and in our communities.
  • Mind Your Mind – Website for youth and young adults about mental health.
  • The Psychology Foundation of Canada – Information and strategies for parents to support their child at home; lesson plans, strategies, and activities to give students skills and experience with handling stress positively. It provides information and tools on creating a safe and supportive classroom climate. 
  • Mental Health and High School Curriculum Guide – The guide, developed in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association, focuses on training teachers to be comfortable with their own knowledge of mental health and mental disorders. The guide then empowers the teachers to share this knowledge with their students through a curriculum delivered in a multiple module format. 
  • Leading Mentally Healthy Schools
  • Supporting Minds
  • – An interactive resource to help educate young adults about their mental health.  With mobile apps, videos and education modules (complete with facilitator guides), my provides tools to talk about mental health, stress and wellness with youth.  
  • School leaders need information to support their work in leading mentally healthy schools. These one page Information Sheets for School Mental Health Assist, co-created with practicing principals in partnership with ADFO, CPCO and OPC, provides need-to-know information and web links in a friendly format for the busy school leader.
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