B.C. schools get $2M for mental-health programs

B.C. schools are getting $2 million for mental-health programs to ensure students can get support when they need it.

All 60 of the province’s school districts will receive a portion of the funds to support new and existing school-based mental health programs focused on prevention, wellness promotion and early intervention.

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About one in seven young people in B.C. will experience a mental illness at some point, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“Many mental illnesses — between 50 per cent and about 70 per cent — show up before the age of 18, so they can have a huge impact on a child’s development,” said a statement from the association’s B.C. division.

In B.C., about six per cent of children experience an anxiety disorder and 3.5 per cent of young people will experience depression, most often in their teen years.

Education Minister Rob Fleming said the goal is to ensure students have access to effective and community-based preventative programming, no matter where they live.

School districts will be able to choose how the grants are spent based on their individual needs.

“Every young person deserves the best possible start in life,” said Judy Darcy, minister of mental health and addictions. “That’s why these grants are so important.”

This is the second round of grants focused on student mental health. The funding is part of $8.87 million being invested over three years.

The previous $2 million went toward a variety of programs across school districts.

In the Cowichan Valley, schools created “calm kits” to help students manage stress and achieve emotional well-being throughout the day.

Schools in Chilliwack organized a school-based mental-health-strategy retreat involving 120 educators, and the Peace River district produced a number of social and emotional learning programs.

Chris van der Mark, president of the B.C. School Superintendents Association, said positive mental health is important for student success.

“Many initiatives are already underway in all of our school districts, and this funding will allow us to continue to collaborate with our partners and rights holders to expand the scope and impact for all members of the school community,” he said.

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