Minds Matter @KPR: Monthly Tips for Families
Just as they need to learn about physical health, children and teens need to understand their mental health and how to take care of it. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, one in five Canadian children and youth experience mental illness. Applied locally, this means 6,000 or more KPR students could be in distress at some point this year. This underscores the important role we all play in supporting child and youth mental health.
Under the province-wide health and physical education curriculum, students learn about mental health in elementary and secondary school. For example:
- Grades 1-3 students learn to describe their emotions; appreciate how healthy and active living benefits their mental well-being; understand the importance of positive relationships with other children and adults; and learn strategies for seeking help.
- Grades 4-8 students learn strategies for maintaining their mental well-being, coping with stress, and asking for help when they feel worried or sad. They receive basic information about common mental health and substance use problems. Topics requiring sensitivity or maturity – such as using social media responsibly, reducing the stigma associated with mental illness, and supporting friends with mental health problems – are introduced gradually. Students also learn that seeking help is a skill, not a weakness, and they should speak with a caring adult if they need assistance with their thoughts and feelings.
- Grades 9-12 students learn more in depth about signs and symptoms of mental health problems, finding sources of support, and checking the accuracy of online information. They cover complex topics such as substance use, harmful behaviours, cyber-bullying, responding to stress and peer pressure, and suicide prevention. Teachers introduce these topics with sensitivity and care, in consultation with KPR mental health professionals.
For details on the provincial curriculum related to mental health, visit http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/mentalhealthfact.pdf .
If you are concerned about your child’s or teen’s mental health, please speak with the teacher, principal or vice-principal, and your family doctor.
You may also find our monthly Minds Matter @ KPR series of articles helpful:
December 2015: Good sources of mental health information
January 2016: Talking with your child or teen about mental health
February 2016: Mental health resources for children and teens
March 2016: Tips for building resilience