Support for student mental health as school communities return to remote learning following the winter break
We understand how challenging the school year has been so far. We know that the shift to remote learning only further escalates these challenges. As school and board staff members, you are carrying a heavy load, and doing all you can to support students through these difficult times. Thank you.
School Mental Health Ontario works together with school boards to support student mental health. We know that Ontario school boards are doing everything possible to help and support students.
We help mental health leadership teams in every school board to design and implement a local action plan that supports mental health promotion, prevention, and early intervention in schools. We provide leadership, coaching, and resources to support board and school action plans related to student mental health. In these uncertain times we want to remind you that we are here to support you in your important work with students. Some resources that may be useful during this time of school closures are listed below. If you have suggestions for other supports that could be helpful to you, please let us know.
Resources available to you
We understand the demands on school and board staff. You know your students best. We offer these resources to support you based on your specific needs. These resources can be used for both in-person or virtual learning.
- Mentally Healthy Return to School Following Winter Break and Beyond – Educator tip sheet on ways to enhance mental health after the holidays, with classroom resources that can be used in person or on-line.
- Virtual Field Trips on promoting wellness during challenging times – Educator resource that includes lesson plans by division, K-12, each of which has a plug and play video field trip that educators can use during on-line learning to share ideas for coping with stress with students.
- ONE-CALL Desktop Reference for Remote Learners – Educator resource to help with recognizing signs of a mental health problem during on-line learning, and how to respond.
- Student MH LIT – Educator lesson plans for secondary students to help with understanding mental health, supporting self-care, and asking for help
- Student Circle of Support Pocket Guide – Tool students can use to identify their sources of support, designed to encourage help-seeking when mental health problems arise.
- Grounding techniques – Simple ways to help students to stay grounded when they are feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
As well, we want to remind you of the many resources that have been developed throughout the pandemic as part of the COVID-19 Student Mental Health Action Kit. And more recently this summer through the Mentally Healthy School Support Package.
How to access help for student mental health concerns:
At this time of uncertainty, and particularly during school closures, it is not unusual for students to be feeling anxious, worried, disappointed, lonely or sad. Calm and supportive caring adults, a chance to see friends on-line, and predictable daily routines can help with that.
Sometimes, students will need more assistance with keeping good mental health. As an educator, education worker or school staff member, you are not a mental health professional, and it is not your role to provide counseling services. But you are sometimes the first to notice when a student may be experiencing signs of a mental health problem and you can help by listening and linking to appropriate supports.
In usual times, you might notice a change in behaviour or emotions, and you would check in with the student, their parent/caregiver, and perhaps link them with support as per your school and board pathways to mental health support. The Desktop version of the ONECALL resource noted above helps you to translate these good practices for the circumstances of on-line learning. Your board Mental Health Leader, and school mental health professionals in your school, or your school principal, can assist you with what to do if you are not sure how to support a student who may be struggling with their mental health.
Quick contact information for mental health concerns
It can be helpful to have contacts for urgent assistance on hand, so we have compiled a brief listing here. Your Mental Health Leader can provide a local listing of resources, and you can make families aware of services available through community mental health and culture/faith based services, as appropriate.
Ontario help lines and support for mental health:
- Children and teens can speak with a counsellor 24/7 by calling Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or texting CONNECT to 686868.
- The Black Youth Helpline offers support for all youth and specifically responds to the need for a Black youth specific service, positioned and resourced to promote access to professional, culturally appropriate support for youth, families and schools. Please call: 1-833-294-8650
- The Hope for Wellness Help Line offers mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous peoples across Canada. Please call 1-855-242-3310
- The Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) offers a 24-hour Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Line with culturally specific mental health and addiction supports for adults, youth, and families in Ontario in both English and French, please call: 1-877-767-7572.
- Find a Child and Youth Mental Health Service in your area.
- Use Ontario 211 to look up additional services available in your area.
Remember to take care of yourself.
Thank you for all that you are doing. This has been so difficult for so many people, and education professionals are working above and beyond to help to keep young people steady. We know that once again, you are doing all you can to support your students. We hope that you can also prioritize your wellness as well. Remember to pace yourself, and to recognize that your best is all you can give, and that is more than enough.