Ontario: Implement Mental Health Education and Classes Into Your Curriculum.
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Mental health should be taught well in schools in Ontario. Schools teach reading, writing, arithmetic, and physical education, yet are lacking when it comes to improving mental health literacy. In every school, there is a Physical Education curriculum, yet mental health, being just as important, does not make it into our class discussions or are only brought up once to twice a year. Our schools need an actual class where they are taught about these issues and not just resources handed to them at a counselor for schools office. Mental health is a day to day problem, not a one-time event like the majority of schools in our Province teach it.
70% of mental health-related problems develop in childhood and adolescent years. Youth between the ages of 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illnesses and substance abuse than any other age group.
Anxiety is plaguing youth and is a growing crisis that needs to be brought awareness to. The Canadian Mental Health Association suggests that 3.2 million youth between the ages of 12 to 19 are at risk of depression. First Nation youth are about five to six more times likely to die from suicide than the national average. According to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, mental illnesses are the second leading cause of disability in Canada.
In order to address the issue, I ask that the Ontario Education takes the following measures to reform our education curriculum and better teach and address mental health issues by:
1. Normalizing the topic of mental health: There is a huge stigma surrounding the topic and it should not be considered taboo. Proper resources and help should be provided at all schools so students will be more willing to open up to the topic of mental awareness. If Phys Ed has it's own separate class, mental health should as well. Ontario Ed should develop classroom lessons with mental health organizations/professionals and implement these classes in every school board. These lessons should be taught weekly, if not daily, just like any physical education class. Schools are where most young people spend their day and are where they should be educated about their well-being.
2. Recognizing the contributions by those struggling with mental illnesses: Temple Grandin claimed that, “If it weren’t for a little bit of autism, we wouldn’t have any phones to talk on… Einstein definitely was; he had no language until age three. How about Steve Jobs? I’ll only mention the dead ones by name. The live ones, you’ll have to look them up on the Internet.” Mental health should always be addressed and it should be recognized that even the most influential people on the planet have struggled with it - it should be normalized. There are many organizations such as CAMH that could provide resources and possible celebrity speaker to address these issues.
3. Providing specialized counselors in schools who are willing to help youth out with their problems. Youth are our future and should be taken care of. If academic advisers are a big thing, why is our own well-being not? Make these counselors more accessible to students to talk to at any time of the day, even after school hours.
4. Developing policies that will improve the mental health conditions of youth and combat the problem. Hold after school clubs or workshops that youth can have access to. Support and resources should not only be made available to those who directly ask for it at school, every student should know when and where to ask for this support if they ever encounter a problem.
5. Educate, educate, educate, educate, educate!!!
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