Supporting children and youth in stressful times such as the tragedy in Parkland, Florida
In stressful times, be it international, national or local events, it is important for families and schools to work together to foster supportive relationships for our students. Caring adults need to help children and youth understand their emotional reactions, to help them engage in positive coping behaviours and to be supportive of each other. Children and youth may not understand the context of recent world events and communications they have heard or seen through various media. This may lead to feelings of fear and uncertainty regarding their own safety, the safety of family or friends and fear of being targeted because of their gender, cultural background, or religious beliefs. We’ve assembled some tips which may assist you while helping children and youth to feel safe.
Wellness and mental health
The mental health of our students is a large and focused priority for the Ottawa Catholic School Board. This focus involves more than just addressing challenges facing today’s youth, such as depression or low self-esteem. It’s about proactively enhancing each student’s view of their own self-worth in order to grow their own positive social, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
Our whole child approach to learning and development integrates physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual wellness. We believe that a strong focus on positive mental health strategies can improve each student’s social-emotional well-being and provide them with the best possible chance for success in school and in life.
Promoting our Board-wide strategy
Our comprehensive Mental Health Strategy provides our staff with a deep understanding of the Board’s commitments and priorities related to student mental health and well-being. Using a tiered approach, we promote wellness for our students through universal approaches which are good for all students.
Our strategy helps us identify and support students who are at risk for developing mental health problems through various prevention and intervention initiatives. It also includes supporting the few students who require more intensive, individualized supports. We work with community partners to direct appropriate resources to students and their families who need extra support. All of the decisions made by our Board are filtered through our mental health strategy lens to ensure that we continue to promote positive, mentally healthy students and schools in an inclusive and aligned way.
Building our school staff capacity
Our school principals and educators are often the first level of support for students seeking help with improving their mental health. We provide a significant number of professional learning opportunities to our staff on topics such as anxiety, self-injury, suicide, social emotional learning, grief, self-care and well-being. Together, with Board psychologists, social workers, and guidance counsellors, we work to ensure that students are heard, and understood by those around them.
Our Board-wide Suicide Prevention, Risk Management and Postvention Protocol and Urgent Care Protocol help staff support students with suicidal thoughts, non-suicidal self-injury behaviours, and other significant mental health challenges. We also provide two other programs developed by Living Works Education (ASIST and SafeTALK) to support suicide awareness and prevention skills. Our staff are also provided with guidelines to know when and how to use these and other resources, and when to reach out for more help.
Secure your medications
What parents need to know – opioids, signs of use, and how to talk to youth about drugs
Please take a moment to read Ottawa Public Health’s comprehensive information about fentanyl and overdose protection at www.stopoverdoseottawa.ca. Then, download Ottawa Public Health’s Opioid Discussion Sheet for Parents, which includes information about preventing opioid use, signs of use, and how to talk to youth about drugs.
How to talk about “13 Reasons Why”
You may have heard of a Netflix series called 13 Reasons Why, which is based on a young adult novel that depicts events leading to death by suicide of a young fictional character. Please take the time to review tips to help talk to your children about the series and its subject matter.
The Ottawa Citizen — Today’s Kindergarten classrooms are empowering children to manage their own emotional well-being
January 2017 — Our kindergarten classrooms embrace self-regulation techniques to help children recognize their own emotional state throughout the day. When children are learning through play, they are also interacting with others and experiencing a wide range of emotions each day. We believe it is crucial that young children be given the tools to help understand these changes and how their emotional state affects their well-being.
At the elementary level, we facilitate the development of self-regulation skills through fostering self-awareness and teaching strategies to return to calm. We call this Social Emotional Learning (SEL). Children can retreat to a designated special area of the classroom whenever they need to regroup, or whenever they feel their emotions are not in an optimal state. A student might sit in a bean bag chair and put on headphones to listen to a pre-recorded message from parents, or stand quietly for a few moments doing controlled breathing until their emotional energy is back on track. As a result, children are more relaxed while at school, and in turn, when they arrive home.
Making high school students self-aware
We proudly support our high schools student’s attendance to events such as the annual Youth Well-Being Summit hosted by Youth Net and the Mental Health Commission of Canada. These experiences equip our students with knowledge and ideas to take back to their peers. A number of our high schools have also been trained in the Sources of Strength program, which focuses on connectivity with one another, fostering peer-adult partnerships, and encourages help-seeking behaviour in today’s youth. We offer training in SafeTALK to senior students who are participating in leadership initiatives, such as certain Specialist High School Major (SHSM) programs. Thanks to these opportunities, our students are better informed about suicide prevention, substance abuse, violence, and how to individually assess and develop resilience in their own lives.
Supporting parents with resources
Any parent with a concern for their child’s mental health (anxiety, depression, behaviour) should speak to their school principal. They can help point you in the direction of the right resources, and can ensure that the child’s mental health needs are considered while they are at school. You can also consult our comprehensive list of resources to help you make informed decisions on who to talk to and guide your child.