‘I encourage all provincial school divisions to take part to help remove the stigma around mental health’
Saskatchewan is investing $400,000 to provide Mental Health First Aid training to at least one staff member in each Saskatchewan school.
The goal is to make Mental Health First Aid available to students when needed, similar to physical first aid.
“Our goal is to have at least one staff member in each school receive Mental Health First Aid training by December 2021,” said Dustin Duncan, minister of education. “We are excited to support schools in ensuring students have access to mental health resources, and I encourage all provincial school divisions to take part to help remove the stigma around mental health.”
Mental Health First Aid can be provided to a person who is developing a mental health concern or who is in a mental health crisis. The training teaches individuals to recognize the symptoms of mental health problems, how to provide initial help and guide a person toward appropriate professional help. Studies show that this kind of training results in improved mental health literacy and decreased stigmatization toward mental health concerns, according to the government.
The training program was developed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) for in-person setup. It is currently being transitioned to be available online in 2021. The Ministry of Education will work with Saskatchewan school divisions to coordinate the training sessions, with little disruptions to the school day. Online delivery will help keep the sessions safe for staff in these uncertain times, according to the government.
“We commend the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education for its timely investment and commitment to providing Mental Health First Aid training for each of the province’s Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools,” said Louise Bradley, president and CEO of MHCC. “We are delighted to hear that the ministry intends to create an online option for school division staff to take Mental Health First Aid training,” concluded Bradley.
The training was a recommendation from the minister’s 2019-20 Youth Council.
“The mental well-being of students is a crucial part of positive and effective learning environments,” said Sandra LeBlanc, 2019-20 Youth Council member. “The new Mental Health First Aid initiative will be a good first step in ensuring that all Saskatchewan students have access to the support they need, one of the priorities of the 2019-20 Youth Council.”
On Dec. 1, Saskatchewan closed the application period for schools to apply for the second round of the COVID-19 contingency fund from provincial, federal and school division savings.
“The second round of COVID-19 contingency funding will ensure schools remain a safe place for students, staff and families” Duncan said. “These applications are in addition to our $51 million allocated in the first round of applications.”
The funds will be used for sanitation, furniture and equipment, remote learning (for immunocompromised and other students) and IT costs not associated to remote learning. The ministry will adjudicate the applications based on these criteria and will notify applicants in early December.
There is $64 million remaining for the second round of applications from the total of $150 million.
In September, $51 million was committed toward the first round of funding for school divisions and school applicants for emergent, one-time expenses associated with a safe return to school.
Recently, Ontario announced it is providing $13.6 million to enable school boards to hire more teachers and staff in regions recently moved to the Red-Control level and providing stabilization funding for school boards, if needed.
In September, the federal government has invested $763.34 million in support for Ontario through the Safe Return to Class Fund to provide the funding they need as they work alongside local school boards to ensure the safety of students and staff members throughout the school year.