Promoting Positive Mental Health in Schools
The most effective way for school communities to ensure the best possible outcomes in support of children and youth, is to use a comprehensive approach. Comprehensive School Health is an internationally recognized framework. The Ontario Ministry of Education supports this comprehensive approach with Foundations for a Healthy School which suggests that schools implement activities under the following five components in order to effectively address a health-related topic, (e.g. promoting positive mental health).
Curriculum, Teaching & Learning
Offering a wide range of opportunities for students to learn, practise and promote positive and healthy behaviours. Visit our Educators pages for more information, lesson plans, curriculum supports and resources to support classroom teaching related to positive mental health promotion, stress management, understanding mental illness and reducing stigma*.
- For Elementary Educators
- For Secondary Educators
- To support staff who are teaching curriculum related to student well-being consider workshops, conferences or inviting field experts to speak at a professional development day.
School & Classroom Leadership
School and classroom leadership focuses on creating a positive classroom and school environment by identifying shared goals and priorities that are responsive to the needs of the school community.
The following example is a strategy that could assist your school in promoting school and classroom leadership:
Student engagement refers to the extent to which students identify with and value their learning; feel a sense of belonging at school; and are informed about, engaged with and empowered to participate in and lead academic and non-academic activities.
The following are examples of strategies that could assist you in engaging students:
- “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.
- Playground Activity Leaders in Schools (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 P.A.L.S. leaders will plan and lead fun and safe activities on the playground. Contact the health unit for more information.
Social & Physical Environments
Healthy, safe and caring social and physical environments support learning and contribute to the positive cognitive, emotional, social and physical development of students.
The following are examples of strategies that could assist you in promoting healthy social and physical environments at your school:
- Providing physical activity equipment for students to use outdoors
- 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.
Home, School & Community Partnerships
Home, school and community partnerships engage parents, extended family, school staff, child care and family support programs and community groups in a mutually beneficial way to support, enhance and promote opportunities for learning and well-being. Community partnerships provide consultation, resources and services to support staff, students, and families.
The following are examples of strategies that could assist you in promoting home, school and community partnerships at your school:
- Roots of Empathy – Roots of Empathy is a research-based program, available to elementary schools, that has been shown to increase empathy and decrease bullying among children who participate in the program. For more information about Roots of Empathy, visit www.rootsofempathy.org. If you are interested in having one of your classrooms participate, contact your local school public health nurse.
- Triple P Positive Parenting Program – The Triple P Positive Parenting Program is an effective parenting program that helps parents with small changes that can make a big difference. Encourage parents to visit www.triplepontario.ca or contact the health unit for more information.
- Community partners may also be available to assist in the development, planning, and implementation of Healthy Schools initiatives, and are a valuable asset to any Healthy Schools Committee. For more information about community partners click on our Community Partnerships page.
- Health Unit Programs and Services for Elementary Schools (PDF)
- Health Unit Programs and Services for Secondary Schools (PDF)
Have additional questions?
Contact Health Connection: 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 or email.
Are you concerned about a student and/or would like additional information related to counselling or community supports? Find out where to get help.
If you would like assistance in developing an action plan for this topic, contact your SMDHU Healthy Schools public health nurse through Health Connection by calling 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520.