Ontario students will receive mental health training beginning in Grade 7

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Published May 1, 2023 at 11:41 am

The Province of Ontario is introducing a new focus on mental health learning for students beginning in Grade 7 and continuing through high school.

The idea has been one that Burlington MPP Natalie Pierre has been pushing for since before she was elected to her current role.

About six years ago, Pierre’s 17-year-old son took his own life and she began then to advocate for more student education about mental health.

“The mental health and well being of students continues to be a priority for our government. I am beyond thrilled and proud that our government is introducing mandatory mental health education in our schools,” said Pierre.

“Mental health literacy can be taught just like any other subject in school, and we know that students who receive appropriate supports have improved academic success. Our government is getting it done by leading the way in Canada to make mental health education a required part of elementary and secondary school education.”

The Ontario government is updating the Grade 10 Career Studies curriculum and is introducing mandatory resources for teachers and students on mental health literacy in Grades 7 and 8. These resources, developed in consultation with experts, would support students as they achieve and prepare for the next steps in their future.

Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, also announced an additional $12 million this year and $14 million next year to provide mental health services over the summer months. This funding will further students’ access to school-based mental health professionals and services year-round, with the aim of providing students consistent and reliable support, responding to a key recommendation of families and student trustees.

“We know that strengthening mandatory mental health literacy in the curriculum is the right thing to do. Natalie Pierre is a strong advocate and MPP, but most of all she is a mother driven to ensure we prevent tragedies and save lives,” said Lecce.

“That is why it is so critical that all students learn healthy coping strategies, stress management and better recognition of the early signs. We want children to have the tools and confidence to succeed in the classroom and to always know that they are not alone.”

The new mandatory mental health literacy resources, which will begin in September, will include new learning materials for Grade 7 and 8 students that are aligned with the Health and Physical Education curriculum.

This includes tools like student activities, videos and interactive programming and information that will help students learn how to manage stress, understand the relationship between mental health and mental illness, recognize the signs and symptoms of a mental health concern, counteract mental health stigma and know when and how to get help.

Mandatory learning on mental health literacy for Grade 10 students will start in fall 2024 and will include how to recognize signs of being overwhelmed or struggling, as well as where to find help locally when needed. This will be included in the Career Studies course.

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