Each year in Ontario, the first week in May is acknowledged as Children's Mental Health Awareness Week CMHAW. While there are many definitions of Mental Health, The First Nations Mental Wellness Continuum Framework provides an insightful and holistic understanding of mental health and wellness, described as “a balance of the mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional. This balance is enriched as individuals have: purpose in their daily lives... hope for their future ... that is grounded in a sense of identity....; a sense of belonging and connectedness within their families, to community, and to culture; and finally a sense of meaning...
We recognize that Mental Health and Well-being are essential components of each student's life and central to their ability to cope with daily stressors, work productively, and see themselves as valued and capable of contributing to their community. Mental health, like physical health, is something we all possess and can work to maintain and enhance. Mental illnesses are the opposite of mental wellness. We can all experience a mental illness no matter our age, background, culture, or ethnicity.
This year, as we continue to be impacted by provincial guidelines, physical school closures, and lockdowns, we focus on maintaining social connections (sense of belonging and connectedness) and mental health (purpose, hope, identity & meaning) while social distancing.
We are pleased to be launching the One Small Thing: Each One Uplifts One Campaign. Through theOne Small Thing campaign, we hope to highlight the importance of small and intentional actions. Choosing to do One Small Thing within your control can change the trajectory of your entire day, improve your mood and overall mental health. One Small Thing: Each One Uplifts One highlights the role we can all play in fostering a genuine sense of value, mattering, belonging, purpose, hope, and meaning for both children and ourselves. Dr. Karyn Hall provides some tips on Creating a Sense of Belonging and its connection to wellbeing. By treating each other with unconditional acceptance, fairness, respect, and kindness, we promote and enhance our mental health and the mental health and wellbeing of those around us. The importance of doing One Small Thing that is within our control could not be more pronounced as many especially children and youth feel isolated, disconnected and alone.
Included below are somesmall but intentional actions which can be taken to maintain social connections and mental health:
- Belonging and connections- Reach out to someone in a manner that feels safe and follows Public Health guidelines i.e., phone call, zoom, text, and other creative ways.
- Purpose: Set daily goals & routines. This can be as small as making your bed each morning or engaging in a meaningful activity or practice
- Hope: Think of one thing each day that makes you feel hopeful. This can be based on your personal practices and beliefs. Write them down if helpful. This can be something as simple as the sun rising. If comfortable and welcomed, share messages of hope with someone.
- Meaning: Ask yourself what adds value to my life and what gives it meaning. For some it can be a game system, friends and for others it can be faith based connections and practices, family or all of the above. When uplifting others remember we all make meaning differently.
- Identity: What makes you –YOU? What are the values and personal beliefs you hold dear? When uplifting others remember to celebrate difference and diversity.
Consider the way you feel when you are valued and treated with this respect, kindness and acceptance; when you feel a sense of belonging, purpose, hope, meaning and a sense of positive identity. Let this be your guidance when uplifting those around you and promoting and enhancing positive mental health and wellbeing.
Please visit School Mental Health Ontario for some fun and easy mental health activities which can be done at home with children.
Mental Health COVID-19 Page
The link below is dedicated to supporting student mental health during this pandemic. Resources for students, parents/guardians as well as community resources are listed. In addition, there are various links to YRDSB mental health supports as well as community supports available during the school closure. Please consider taking some time to familiarize yourself with the Mental Health and Community Supports During COVID. Continue to check out the YRDSB website for updated information as well as the Twitter accounts @YRDSB and @YRDSB_SS.
Patricia Marra-Stapleton, M.Sc., C. Psych. Assoc.
Mental Health Lead
Hoshana Calliste, MSW, RSW
Assistant Coordinator of Mental Health