How the Type and Quality of Education Can Affect Our Social and Economic Outcomes
Res #: 9-18A
Responses Received: Yes
Departments: Saskatchewan Ministry of Education
WHEREAS the high relationship failure rate often leads to low productivity and higher health care costs as well as higher divorce, depression and suicide rates, higher stress, addiction and crime rates, all of which drains and strains our society and our economy;
WHEREAS the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Canadian government recognized the abnormally high rates of teen suicide and passed Bill C-300 to study this very titanic and unacceptable problem within our society;
WHEREAS that newer evidence based research suggests that large scale school based mental health/health education programs can be implemented in a variety of diverse cultures and educational models as well as preliminary evidence that such programs have significant and measurable positive effects on a student’s emotional, behavioral and academic outcomes;
BE IT RESOLVED that SARM lobby the provincial Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health, and Health Canada to take action by implementing a vastly improved health education curriculum which more completely meets the students’ true emotional and mental health needs along with a much higher level of relationship skills, especially at the Grade 9 – 12 levels;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that given the high rate of teenage difficulties, SARM lobby the Ministry of Education to take the curriculum ‘off pause,’ and to also make a higher quality of health education available and compulsory in the Grade 11 and 12 levels as health education is neither available nor compulsory in most schools at present.
Responses From: Saskatchewan Ministry of Education
October 25, 2022
Thank you for your recent request regarding mental health supports and mental health education in Saskatchewan schools. We appreciate when organizations such as yours pose an interest in student mental health. As Minister of Education, I can assure you the Government of Saskatchewan understands the importance of supporting those who are experiencing mental health challenges and building capacity for mental wellness in staff and students. The government has invested in student mental wellness and we wanted to highlight some of the initiatives being implemented.
Working Together for Change: A 10 Year Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan for Saskatchewan, is a plan which calls for a more coordinated and timely response to people in need of mental health and addictions services. it can be found here: www.saskatchewan.ca/government/health-care-administration-and-provider-resources/saskatchewan-health-initiatives/mental-health-and-addictions-action-plan. This plan was a collaborative effort that Included input from the ministries of Health, Social Services, Education, Justice and Corrections and Policing and members of the public, including those most affected by mental health issues.
The Ministry of Education is committed to supporting the mental well-being of students across Saskatchewan through initiatives related to bullying prevention, positive mental health and student safety. The ministry has provided annual funding to support school divisions with staff training costs associated with mental health, student safety and suicide prevention.
The ministry has invested nearly $500,000 to offer Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training to school divisions, to have at least one staff member trained in each school in Saskatchewan’s 27 school divisions. This training occurred in fall 2021 and 733 of the 735 provincial schools have at least one Individual trained in MHFA. Staff trained In MHFA can provide help to students and staff when needed, similar to how staff trained in physical first aid can provide help when needed.
Mental Health Capacity Building (MHCB) is an initiative which provides staffing and related supports required to build capacity and implement integrated, school-based community mental health promotion and prevention programming. MHCB is a collaboration between the ministries of Health and Education and the Saskatchewan Health Authority. In 2022-23, $2 million in annualized funding has been made available to support the MHCB project. This project was implemented in five schools in 2021-22 and has expanded to support an additional five schools within four school divisions in 2022-23.
School divisions and schools directly support the mental wellness of staff and students in a variety of ways, when dealing with difficult topics such as suicide, depression and anxiety. The ministry has assisted school divisions through its work with the Embracing Life Initiative (ELI), which is a call for action among partners, to reduce suicide by sharing the strengths of communities and working together through health promotion, suicide prevention, intervention and post-vention. The ELI has created the Embracing Life App which can be used with students as well as those who may be experiencing mental health concerns. Additionally, the ministry works with Kids Help Phone (KHP) to promote their e-mental health services which are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, via phone, text, website and Facebook. KHP’s Resources Around Me database provides children and youth with the opportunity to search for resources in the local community, including counsellor and mental health support.
Health and social well-being require a comprehensive approach involving collaboration among young people, families, schools, agencies, communities and government. The importance of such a collaborative approach is being demonstrated in the development of our Provincial Education Plan. The education sector has come together to provide valuable input on topics including mental wellness, and this plan will serve to provide a direction to ensure all students have access to the supports they need to be healthy and successful. For example, the Interim Provincial Education Plan includes actions such as increasing communication among ministries and school systems about available mental health and well-being supports, programming and services and the opportunities to share effective, promising practices and research.
There are numerous opportunities for students to develop relationship skills which positively impact their mental health and well-being. In health education curricula, for example, students in Grade 1 begin by discussing healthy behaviours and nurturing healthy relationships. In Grade 4, students explore strategies related to developing and managing relationships as well as how relationships influence how individuals see themselves. In Grade 7, students explore how to skillfully manage peer pressure and nurture relationships during times of conflict. In Grade 9, students analyze how emotional, physical and mental well-being is enhanced when exploring the topic of safety.
In addition to health education, many subject areas provide opportunities for the development of Ideas related to emotional and mental health at higher grades. In Wellness 10, students assess the impact of mental health on overall well-being and In Physical Education 20, students investigate the benefits of physical activity on mental health. In Health Science 20, students look at health care philosophies and ethics and their impact on all aspects of health, including mental health. In English language arts, students have opportunities to learn about life’s challenges such as peer pressures, worries, hopes and relationships, In the renewed Practical and Applied Arts curriculum, Life Transitions 20 and 30, students can investigate holistic approaches towards mental wellness and explore topics related to suicide risk factors, warning signs, and community supports available to self and others. In addition to provincial courses, school divisions have developed and offer locally developed courses such as Mental Health and Addictions, Mental Health Studies and Mental Wellness.
The Ministry of Education resumed secondary curriculum development in 2017 based on recommendations received from provincial engagement sessions. Wellness 10 was previously renewed in 2012, and Physical Education 20 and Physical Education 30 were renewed in 2019. Health education in grades 1 to 9 is a required area of study, and one course of Wellness 10, Physical Education 20 or Physical Education 30 is a requirement for graduation in Saskatchewan.
A Curriculum Advisory Committee has been established to develop recommendations regarding future curriculum development and renewal and Saskatchewan’s high school graduation requirements beyond 2023 for the Minister of Education. The committee brings together a cross- section of representatives from Kindergarten to Grade 12 education stakeholders, including teachers; post-secondary institutions; the business community and parents.
We value working collaboratively to find solutions to best prepare our province’s youth by providing educational opportunities and support in the area of mental wellness. We appreciate your stance on student mental health and we commend your efforts when it comes to addressing students’ social-emotional lives.
The Honourable Dustin Duncan – Minister of Education, Saskatchewan Ministry of Education