DSBN students contribute to design of pilot program for mental health and well-being

Monday, July 16, 2018

The District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) launched a program that had students advocating for students and improving access to mental health and well-being supports – at their very own schools.

In the fall of 2017, the DSBN Mental Health and Well-being Team launched a Focus Schools Pilot Project in which 20 schools (13 elementary and seven secondary) each formed a well-being team, comprised of both students and staff. These teams attended three training sessions throughout the year, focusing on putting research into practice, working together to set reasonable and attainable social and emotional learning goals, and creating a school culture that builds resilience and creates belonging.

The well-being teams met regularly in their schools with support from the Mental Health and Well-being Team and began identifying unique school-based needs, ultimately leading to the conclusion that a “one-size fits all” approach to mental health would not work. The challenge then became, how to develop new innovative practices while at the same time ensuring sustainability and avoiding “one-off” initiatives. Student voice and leadership were essential in moving forward and many student-based responses and ideas emerged.

One of the recurring themes was that students wanted easier access to mental health supports within their schools.  As a result, students developed an online booking system which now allows students to view the Social Worker and Youth Counsellor’s calendar to pick a day/time for an initial consultation or a follow-up appointment. Each of the participating schools worked to create innovative practices that were reflective of the student population and level of need within the school community.

This ultimately lead to the DSBN Mindset Matters Student Leadership Conference, celebrating the success of each Focus School. Keynote speaker Dr. Meg Popovic captured the audience with her insightful, impactful, and interactive presentation on both the challenges and opportunities facing youth today and the importance of resiliency. Student Trustees lead the charge as the masters of ceremony as well as leading an energizer activity for all conference participants. The Focus School Well-being Teams then showcased their amazing work and the impact this has had on the school community.

The conference concluded with teams consolidating the information gathered and planning how to sustain a culture of well-being and resiliency through student voice and student leadership.  The Focus Schools Well-being Teams and the Mindset Matters Student Leadership Conference proved a huge success and has set the stage for next year. These schools will now enter year two which will focus on supporting sustainability and developing student leadership. A new group of schools will begin their year one journey in September 2018.