Improving Mental Health Services for Students

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Schools are a critical access point for young people struggling with mental health issues. Currently, the service available within schools for these students is lacking. There is an increasing number of students in Northern Ontario that are being diagnosed or affected by mental health disorders. Many students struggle with anxiety, depression, and a variety of other mental illnesses. These students that are struggling with their mental health tend to not perform as well in their classes, have a higher rate of absenteeism, and gradually drop out as a result. There are many youth in Northern Ontario that are suffering from mental health issues; sadly self-harm and suicide are not uncommon. 

There is a grave need for more resources and professional support from counsellors in our schools. Students in rural schools must have access to the same resources that urban schools have. Many of these students have been forced to seek help outside of school which is dangerously inconvenient. In some cases, parents are not able to take their children elsewhere for care, and there are numerous situations that could limit a student's ability to receive that care. The waiting list for young people searching for support in their schools is inhumane and unacceptable. There must be full time support available within schools.

Amongst these students, there are students who choose not to reach out at all. It is difficult for teachers and staff to recognize these students because it is not necessarily a part of their job requirements. Teachers, staff, and other front line workers including police officers must be trained more extensively in the mental health field. This includes recognition, mental health first aid, and crisis intervention. Especially in consideration of the lack of support available in schools, these important figures in young peoples' lives need to be able to identify and direct students with mental health issues to the help they require. 
 
As students, we recognize the need to provide better support to youth dealing with mental health issues. People must be more aware of the issues that are being faced in our school communities. We need to be teaching students more about mental health as a part of high school education, and it must be done in a way that minimizes stigma. We must educate students on the dangers of mental health stigmas. There are far too many young people that are suffering from mental health issues, and there needs to be an improvement in the way schools are handling these issues. There must be more financial support from the provincial government to schools and school boards in order to apply changes to the services available within the school, and support the many young people in Northern Ontario that are suffering not only from mental illnesses, but as a result of lack of support they have access to in schools.



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