21st century learners exist in a complex and often confusing world.Consequently, the issue of student mental health is more important every day. Healthy, happy children learn better, and there is a growing recognition that the psychological well being of students is affected by factors present within and surrounding students. Mental health can be measured not only in the absence of symptoms or problems, but also in the resilience of individuals to cope with the anxieties and stress that they face, both at school and in the worlds they live in.
Promoting positive mental health needs to be a goal for effective and caring schools. According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) " Fostering the development of positive mental health by creating supportive environments and addressing the broader determinants of mental health are key to the promotion of positive mental health". The Canadian Joint Consortium for School Health (JCSH), recognizes that schools are source of social connection, safety and belonging for many students and encourages schools to adopt healthy school policies, promote positive social and physical environments, use appropriate teaching and learning activities and to partner and collaborate with families and other organizations with a similar focus on youth education.
Reprinted below are the JCSH's checklists for schools and positive mental health. How does your school stack up?
Healthy School Policies
does your school......
- provide alternatives to zero tolerance policies that allow for continued school connnectedness and restoration for challenging students?
- ensure that all staff and students are held accountable for upholding and modelling rules pertaining to respect and appropriate behavior?
- have policies that contribute to the emotional and physical safety of all students?
- accommodate the learning and social needs of all students, including those with special needs?
- offer ongoing pro d related to positive mental health?
Positive Social and Physical Environment
does your school.....
- encourage and allow students to participate in decision making?
- foster an atmosphere of empathy, trust and cooperation?
- have a welcoming student centered environment?
- showcase student achievement?
- design physical spaces so that students can easily access facilities?
does your school.....
- provide students with an enhanced understanding of diversity?
- incorporate culturally relevant themes into its instructional activities?
- offer students opportunities to learn and use social skills?
- accommodate individual learning needs?
- support the autonomy of learners by listening to student perspectives?
does your school....
- interact with home regarding learning issues?
- adopt policies that ensure collaboration community and government organizations?
- offer opportunities for participation in school - community action groups or committees?
For more information regarding Positive Mental Health please see "Schools as a Setting for Promoting Positive Mental Health: Better Practices and Perspectives". This 80 page plus document gives examples of good practice, and is designed to encourage dialogue and action in this are, with the goal of improving mental health outcome for Canadian students. It can be found at www.jchs-cces.ca