“For us, mental health is not a separate topic but part of what we do,” said Sketchley. “We have kids who take part in a wellness group and meet every Friday at lunch hour to talk about initiatives like the yoga, meditation, and we want to do some work around intentional acts of kindness.
“… But you can’t have a building where kids aren’t loved and expect you are going to introduce a mental health program that will solve the issues.”
On Tuesday, in announcing the four-year plan, director of education Donna Quan said student anxiety interferes with learning, academic progress and self-confidence, and it’s important for the board to “build confident citizens of tomorrow.”
The plan is in response to worrisome survey results released last year that showed most students in Grades 7 to 12 feel nervous or anxious most of the time, and that many are worried about their future; many reported feeling tired or wanting to cry much of the time, and half of teens said they were lonely or down.
All 39,000 staff of the board —from principals to lunchroom supervisors and caretakers — will be trained in the basics of mental health by the end of June, Quan said, and training will be ongoing.
Every school is also now expected to have a mental health team made up of school staff, parents and students.