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Your Role

Educators matter for student mental health

As an educator, you have a significant influence on students’ lives. The relationships you develop with students aren’t just about academics. You’re a trusted and caring adult, and an ideal person to help them to learn about and care for their mental health.

Positive mental health is foundational to academic achievement, life skills, and overall well-being. The efforts you make to support your students’ mental health will have an impact now and in the future.

Did you know?: The Ontario College of Teachers has a Professional Advisory on Supporting Students’ Mental Health.

How educators can support student mental health

You’re in a unique position to be able to support student mental health.  In your role, you can

  • create mentally healthy classroom environments that help students to feel that they are welcome, included and belong
  • encourage activities and initiatives designed to promote positive mental health
  • teach social-emotional skills to help students to navigate relationships, figure out who they are and how they belong, and stay resilient when life hands them challenges
  • build student mental health literacy so they know how to care for their mental health, identify signs of difficulty, and reach out for help early if they need assistance
  • work to reduce stigma related to mental health and mental illness
  • help students who may be struggling with a mental health problem through ongoing classroom support and accommodations.

The resources on this site are designed to help you with your important role   

Increase your knowledge of mental health

Take our online course, or explore the learning topics.

Start to take action in your classroom

There are simple, everyday practices you can follow that will help students. School Mental Health Ontario resources align with and support the Ontario curriculum.

Be ready to connect and support students in need

Prepare yourself to support students who you believe may be struggling.

Educators have a key role, but you are not alone!

Our approach to school mental health in Ontario includes three levels.

The first level – tier 1 – is good for all – this is where the bulk of your influence is. It’s the foundational everyday work you do to welcome and include students, to understand them and build your knowledge of mental health, to promote mentally healthy habits and to partner with parents, students and other staff to create a supportive environment.

When you create a safe, welcoming, inclusive classroom, and teach all students how to maintain good mental health, not only are you equipping all students with skills and sense of belonging, you are helping to prevent the onset of new problems amongst your students, or perhaps keeping existing illnesses from getting worse.

The second level – tier 2 – is necessary for some because, in every class and school, there will be some students who may need additional support. Early identification and prevention services can make a critical difference for a student who is having difficulty with their thoughts, behaviour, or emotions. Educators have a role in helping to identify students in need of more support, and in reinforcing helpful skills and strategies in the classroom.

School mental health professionals, like school social workers, psychologists, and psychological associates are particularly well-positioned to provide additional preventive services, like structured psychotherapy, at this level. Others, like guidance and student success teachers, or child and youth workers, can also play a supportive role for students in need of additional care.

Guidance and student success teachers

You serve a unique role within your school. In addition to the materials in the Educator section of our site, you may also find some of the materials in School and System Leaders helpful, especially if you’re part of the Mental Health Leadership Team at your school.

It’s possible your colleagues will turn to you for advice. Make sure you know how to access support for your students. 

The third level – tier 3 – is essential for few. Students with more significant mental health problems need access to more intensive support, through school mental health professionals regulated with a professional college (psychology or social work staff) and/or via assessment and treatment in a community/health service setting. Learn more about how you can help students who are receiving tier 2 and 3 supports.

As an educator, you’ll stay involved at all levels because you’re part of the student’s Circle of Support. We cover your role and the tiered model in detail in our online course.

The Aligned and Integrated Model or AIM is a triangle that shows the three tiers of student mental health support in Ontario.

Need help now?

We don’t provide mental health advice, counselling or treatment. If you or someone you know is in crisis, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department. You can also reach out to Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868.