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Our Mental Health & Well-Being Strategy 2018-2021

At the centre of our Strategic Commitments is “Be Well” which calls the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) to honour the dignity of every person by caring for and supporting the well-being of all. This commitment begins with the fundamental belief that we are all created in the image and likeness of God, deserving of dignity and respect, of care for our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Our whole school approach to mental health resonates with the commitment to “Be Community”, ensuring that we create equitable and welcoming places for all. In our commitment to “Be Innovative”, our focus on Deep Learning and Social Emotional Learning invites us to further explore the mental health benefits of creating flexible learning environments, and continuing to develop partnerships with parents and community agencies, while infusing mental health and well-being into our curriculum and daily interactions.

Supporting children and youth in stressful times such as a natural disaster

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.

A universal approach to serve all students

Using a tiered approach, we promote wellness for our students through universal approaches which are good for all students. Our Mental Health & Well-Being Strategy 2018-2021 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. 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’s prevention networks and protocols help staff support students with suicidal thoughts, non-suicidal self-injury behaviours, and other significant mental health challenges. 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.

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.

“Mental health is a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution.” World Health Organization

2014 definition

Keeping parents connected

Any parent with a concern for their child’s mental health (anxiety, depression, behaviour) should speak to their school principal. Your principal 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. View resources.

Opioids, signs of use, and how to talk to youth about drugs

View Ottawa Public Health’s comprehensive information about fentanyl and overdose protection at 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.

Cannabis: What parents need to know

Browse this fact sheet on recreational cannabis. It provides information about legalization, risks, how to help your child, and where to get more information and support.

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. Review our OCSB Psychologist’s suggestions for talking to your children about the series and its subject matter.

OECD Study on Social and Emotional Skills

The OCSB is proud to join the three other Ottawa School Boards as a participant in the international OECD Study on Social and Emotional Skills, investigating 10- and 15-year olds’ social-emotional development. During Spring 2018, Fall 2018, and Fall 2019, select schools in the ­­­­­­­District will participate in various phases of this three-part study. If you have any questions about our participation in this study or about the protection of student privacy, please contact Lauren Figueredo, Research Officer, at or 613-224-4455 Ext. 2341.


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