Practical resources to support student mental health during COVID-19
We recognize the incredible efforts of educators, school and board staff who serve students daily in classrooms across Ontario. We know you do so despite your personal pandemic challenges. Your work matters. When students attend school, whether in-person or online, they engage in important routines and foster connections that can help them to feel more balanced amidst the uncertainties. Thank you for all you do to create welcoming and inclusive classrooms that help our students to learn and grow.
The following resources and learning opportunities have been prepared to both bolster student mental health and support the well-being of educators. These classroom-ready resources can be used for either virtual and in-person learning. Additional classroom materials and learning opportunities are in development and will be shared in the coming weeks and months.
The action kit is designed to help you support students in the following areas through a series of modules (lesson plans and supplementary materials):
- Promoting wellness during challenging times
- Supporting student mental health learning
- Encouraging early help-seeking when mental health problems arise
Download a copy of the action kit.
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If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health or substance use emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to the emergency room of your local hospital. Even in these unusual times, it is important to get the immediate help that you need. There are people ready and available to help. If you are not sure if it is an emergency, or just need to talk through the situation, consider reaching out to Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000, or the distress line or mobile crisis team in your area.
Kids Help Phone – 1-800-668-6868 or TEXT 686868
In the course of regular instruction, or when talking about mental health, you may notice that a student appears to be struggling with their emotions. For example, they might appear upset or say they are feeling sad, afraid, alone, afraid, or worried (about COVID-19, food security, race related social tension/social and racial inequities/racism, housing, caregiver’s health, life events, etc.) While you are not a mental health professional, YOU can help (see ONE-CALL Desk Reference for more information):
Connect (“You do not appear to be yourself today, you seem upset. I am here to listen to you, do you want to talk?”)
Ask (“I will do all I can to support and help you and if I cannot I will find someone who can. How can I help?”)
Listen (“I understand why you’re feeling this way. I appreciate you sharing your story with me, I can understand why that would be upsetting because…”)
Link (“There are people who can help, let’s look at some options…”) Depending on the age and the area of needs, validate the importance of their voice in their plan of care. In addition to formal mental health services, family supports, faith supports, racial and cultural community supports can be considered.
Be sure that students in your class are aware of how they can contact Kids Help Phone, 24/7, if they need to talk further.
Kids Help Phone – 1-800-668-6868 or TEXT 686868
You are not alone
Your school, and school board, has a strong circle of mental health support. All Ontario school boards have a mental health leader and superintendent with responsibility for mental health. Many have additional regulated school mental health professionals (social workers, psychologists, psychological associates, mental health nurses). Services may include mental health check-ins, counselling, consultation and/or suicide intervention. Talk with your principal to know what services are available to students during virtual learning and how to initiate a consultation or referral. School regulated mental health professionals are there to support and consult with you. You are not alone.
In addition, you can find names of the Children’s Mental Health organizations in your community.
Kids Help Phone is available to students, 24/7.
Kids Help Phone – 1-800-668-6868 or TEXT 686868
Display numbers prominently. Asking for help is skill we can teach, model, and encourage.
Here are some key messages related to mental health and well-being to refresh with students. You know your students best, and so these are starting points for conversations. Use your professional judgement to modify these statements in ways that are developmentally appropriate and contextualized to individual students’ lived experiences.
- We know the transition to fully online learning is a hard one – we are here to help.
- It is not unusual to feel worried, tired or sad right now because these are challenging times.
- Mental health is a good thing! We all want to have good mental health for ourselves, our family, and our friends.
- We can take care of our mental health, just like we take care of our physical health.
- We can do this by eating well, getting a good night’s sleep, being active, and taking time to relax, have fun, and do some things that make us feel happy every day.
- Remember that part of staying mentally well means connecting with others who share your interests, culture, identities, and values.
- There are people who work in schools, and in our community, who are trained to help you to find ways to get through this so you can feel better.
- If you are feeling unwell (e.g., overwhelmed, depressed, panicky), you can talk to me or another trusted adult.
Resources and learning opportunities
Getting ready and minds on
Here are some resources that can help you, and your students, to learn about mental health at school.
Professional learning resources for you:
This tool provides guidance for educators to support students as they transition back from the winter break and engage in remote learning.
As an educator, you won’t be able to take away the stressors your students feel, but you may be able to help to minimize their impact. This article includes strategies that you can share with students that can help them to cope.
This info sheet provides tips and information about how to have mentally healthy conversations about anti-Black racism with students.
The ONE-CALL process provides educators with a step-by-step approach to support students when they exhibit signs of an emotional or behavioural issue.
The information guide provides an overview of common mental health issues. It includes suggestions for differentiated instructional strategies and/or accommodations.
Resources for students:
It’s normal to feel anxious during challenging times. With the help of Ontario secondary school students, we’ve put together youth-friendly materials for the classroom, or via social media, to help students understand more about anxiety and coping in relation to the pandemic
This resource is designed to promote help-seeking and provides ideas and strategies for self-care for students. It was designed with input from Ontario secondary students.
Reaching Out is a tip sheet for students to support help-seeking by showcasing different ways to start the conversation with a trusted person and what to expect after reaching out.
Self-care is an important part of wellness and even more critical when we go through difficult and stressful times in our lives. This tip sheet provides information for students on how take care of themselves.
A hub of resources to help students to take care of themselves and others during this challenging time.
A student-led Instagram account developed by School Mental Health Ontario’s student reference group, ThriveSMH. @ThriveSMH offers weekly posts on coping and self-care strategies, help-seeking, relatable memes, and student-facing resources.
Featured classroom-ready resources
These conversation starters can be used to support a welcoming and caring learning environment that supports learning, wellness, and equitable outcomes for all students.
The Everyday Mental Health Classroom Resource offers a collection of high-quality, everyday mental health practices to enhance students’ social and emotional skills. Use the view all and filter page to filter practices for virtual learning.
Faith and Wellness: A Daily Mental Health Resource offers a collection of high-quality, everyday mental health practices to enhance students’ social and emotional skills. These practices are rooted in the Catholic Faith. Use the view all and filter page to filter practices for virtual learning.
First Ten Days (and Beyond) was created for the start of the school year, but the information and activities are still relevant for now. The activities focus on relationships, connection and community. They are designed to help students ease into school routines.
Lesson plans and supplementary materials in development
The modules are designed to support you with the delivery of information in these areas:
Virtual Field Trips: Stress Management and Coping
In partnership with Ophea, we’re offering a series of lessons (organized by early years, grades 1-3, 4-6, 7-8, and 9-12) to support the development of stress management and healthy coping skills. The activities in these lessons provide an opportunity for skill development and modelling for both students and educators. Each lesson will include (1) a minds-on, (2) a pre-recorded session hosted by an Ophea educator ambassador and School The monthly field trip topics include: January – Breathing strategies (materials coming soon) February – Muscle relaxation strategies March – Visualization strategies April – Distraction strategies May – Thought-changing strategies June – Gratitude strategies
Student learning about mental health needs to be developmentally appropriate and contextualized for student needs. As such, there are two main offerings in this area:
The Elementary Health and Physical Education curriculum includes a focus on social emotional learning and mental health literacy. School Mental Health Ontario has prepared a series of lesson plans to support instruction related to these curriculum expectations. Cross-curricular connections are made.
A student mental health literacy series of lessons will be provided for use with secondary students, focusing on building their understanding of mental health and mental illness, signs of mental health problems, and how/where to access help when needed.
In addition to these lesson plans, student friendly resources to support help-seeking and to enhance awareness of pathways to mental health supports will be provided in an ongoing manner.
In addition to providing the lesson plan materials, School Mental Health Ontario will be offering a range of implementation supports. You are not alone in this important work!
Social-emotional learning video series for students
Please take care of yourself
We recognize that these are difficult times for school and board staff. The pressure has been intense, all while you also experience the pandemic. We know that you are doing all you can to help your students through this. We hope that you can prioritize your wellness and mental health as well. Personal wellness looks different for everyone. There is no one way to maintain balance in the face of the challenges we are facing together. Taking time for you, to engage in self-care practices and maintain connections that help you to feel well, is so very important, and sets an excellent example for our students.
National Association of School Psychologists
Parent tips, resources for schools and school mental health professionals
The Hope for Wellness Help Line
Mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous peoples across Canada
Ministry of Education – Learn at home
Find supplementary resources for elementary and secondary students to practice math and literacy skills and learn at home
The First Peoples Wellness Circle has put together a resource with tips for First Nations parents and families on supporting mental wellness of children and young people in their communities.
Public Health Agency of Canada
Risk level for Canadians, current situation, travel advisories
Indigenous Services Canada
Information for Indigenous communities related to COVID-19 and available supports
Government of Ontario
Ontario news, status of cases in Ontario – updated at 10:30 a.m. daily
World Health Organization
Technical documents, questions and answers