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Boost in funding for SD42 mental health programs

Maple Ridge News - 2/11/2019

Mental health programs in the school district have received a boost in funding from the provincial government.

School District 42 will be receiving $31,000 of $3 million in funding being handed out to the 60 school districts and independent schools across the province.

"We haven't made any decisions at this point about how this funding will be allocated within the school district. We are just beginning to have those conversations. But we do have a number of programs in place that would benefit from such funding support," said Irena Pochop with SD42.

One of these programs would be The Riverside Program, a semester-based, half-day program with a wellness and therapeutic skills focus. This program services youth who demonstrate anxiety and depressive-type symptoms that significantly interfere with their ability to successfully engage in learning. It combines academics with skills training to promote personal growth in the areas of emotional regulation, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and self-efficacy.

Another program that could benefit from the funding would be The Mental Health Literacy Program that is based on the work of Dr. Stan Kutcher. This program is currently being piloted in four of the district's secondary schools as a part of the Grade 9 Physical and Health Education curriculum. It educates secondary students in mental health literacy as well as trains educators in every school to be someone to whom students can naturally form good relationships with, go to for help, and feel comfortable talking to about their problems.

Three educators are also being sent to Mental Health Literacy training this week to become Mental Health Literacy facilitators.

They will be developing a comprehensive implementation plan for the 2019/20 school year.

The funding announcement was made at the second annual Ministry of Education school community mental health conference that took place Feb. 4-5 in Vancouver.

More that 500 representatives of B.C. public, independent and First Nations schools, police, health authorities and child and youth mental health workers attended the event.

The government grants are to be put towards programs that focus on prevention, wellness promotion and early intervention including staff training sessions, parent information nights, the development of new resource materials for educators, families and community organizations and student workshops. The money can also go towards enhancing existing mental wellness programs for students, parents and educators, assist with launching new ones and professional development opportunities.

"Today's students face social and emotional challenges that are becoming more and more complex all the time," said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

"When we address these issues early, students will be able to not just survive, but thrive – and they will benefit for years to come," she said.

To further increase supports for young people, the Ministry of Children and Family Development, in collaboration with Anxiety Canada, have created new anxiety prevention workshops and classroom resources for B.C. educators for students in kindergarten to Grade 7 as part of EASE or Everyday Anxiety Strategies for Educators. EASE workshops were launched Jan. 25 and will run through May. They are provided at no cost to B.C. teachers, school counsellors and other educators and will be available in two developmental levels, grades kindergarten to Grade 3 and Grades 4 to 7. The workshops will support educators to integrate EASE anxiety prevention strategies into their everyday classroom routines.

"We know that many children experience anxiety. It impacts their lives at home and school," said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development.

"EASE resources are designed to help teachers give kids easy-to-use tools, such as recognizing anxiety in their bodies, breathing as a calming strategy and focusing on the present as a way to challenge worry. Providing this support is the first step in helping kids build life-long coping skills," explained the Minister.