Student Mental Health and Addictions Newsletter - November 2022

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Student Mental Health and Addiction Strategy

A Closer Look At The Concept of “Within.”

Dear Families, 

The October Newsletter introduced the revised Student Mental Health and Addiction Strategy (SMHAS): A Holistic Approach to Mental Health, Within Us, Between Us, Around Us.  In this edition of the Newsletter, we take a closer look at the concept of “Within” and the associated learning actions for Kindergarten to Grade 12+. The Within learning actions are part of the SMHA strategy implementation and a series of ongoing learning opportunities for students and educators that support student mental health and well-being. The term learning action reflects our ongoing commitment to connecting the Within-Between-Around framework to continued learning and action, moving beyond an activity, which can often be seen as a moment in time. Through learning actions, we hope to create sustainability and highlight - a process - and a journey in our learning. The goals of the learning actions are to create/enhance identity-affirming spaces within the learning environment, promote positive identity formation, support educators in knowing their learners in a meaningful way, build positive connections, and support well-being.

The learning actions focus on three mini-sections:

Identity: Supporting positive identity formation through learning about ourselves and our identities in connection with our families, communities and experiences

Strengths, Passions, and Natural  Gifts: Exploring and understanding that each of us is unique, worthy and capable of doing great things. We are exploring what brings us joy and purpose in connection with our strengths, passions and natural gifts. 

Belonging, Mattering, and Acceptance:  Creating identity-affirming environments through learning to understand, celebrate, and honour the diversity among and within the classroom and the broader community. In a way that honours differences as something to be celebrated and valued.

The concept of Within allows us to better understand that we each have gifts, strengths and assets of our self/spirit, various intersecting identities, traditions, and cognitive and emotional well-being.  Each one of us is unique.

As we implement the SMHA Strategy and the concept of Within, we work towards supporting actions that genuinely honour, and acknowledge the intersecting identities, gifts, strengths and experiences of students and their respective communities in a manner that centers, affirms and does not exclude. This includes honouring the parts Within Us, Between Us and Around Us that make us who we are, our hopes, dreams, aspirations, experiences, values, beliefs and traditions. This includes Priority areas 1.1 - 1.12 (Within) Provide identity-affirming, culturally responsive, and relevant mental health promotion, illness prevention, and intervention. The goals of creating identity-affirming spaces are not to ensure that students “fit in” to our schools. Rather, we hope to shape and create learning environments where students can be their authentic selves and know they do not have to change who they are to belong, “fit in” or be accepted. No matter who they are, how they show up or where they come from. No matter the texture of their hair, the shade of their skin, their faith, learning or physical abilities, or their gender identity or expression. No matter linguistic background, or any other attributes.  

Each and every child in our school system deserves to feel seen, heard, and valued and know they matter and belong for who they are. When students know that they matter, belong and are cared for by those around them, they are best able to succeed, thrive, be hopeful and welcome new opportunities and learning. 

Student affirmations present in the  Within learning actions:

I belong here. I am cared for here.

I matter here. I am important here. 

I am accepted here. I am valued here.

Three children smiling with their arms around each other's shoulders.

We acknowledge much work needs to continue to ensure students and their families are affirmed for who they are and can feel safe, comfortable and valued within the YRDSB. Students can not and should not wait for safer spaces. The Within learning actions are one part of the overall work being carried out in support of creating “safer” spaces and supporting students' mental health and well-being. 

A call to action: 

As we work towards enhancing student mental health and well-being and creating spaces that honours, affirms and uplifts students for who they are, we invite you on the journey with us. Families are invited to use the prompts below to continue exploring the concept of Within through conversations around acceptance and belonging.  Alongside actions that affirm the identity, strengths and gifts of others.

Inward reflection: What do I/we need to feel accepted and have a sense of belonging in the different spaces I/we enter?

Outward consideration:  What might others need to feel accepted and have a sense of belonging?

Actions we can take:

  • What is one thing I/we can do to help others feel accepted and have a sense of belonging? Think about actions you can take and words you can say.
  • Choose words that heal and not hurt  (Kind words)
  • Practice empathy, understanding, compassion, and care
  • Make space in our thinking for experiences and realities that differ from our own
  • See differences as something to be celebrated and honoured
  • Normalize positive and asset-based conversations about different abilities, races, gender identities, cultures, religions etc
  • Take time to learn about the wisdom, strengths, gifts and excellence of other communities/identities 
  • See below for helpful resources

We continue to learn from and with students, families and YRDSB communities. We look forward to a year of learning, discovery, and joy alongside you. 

We welcome your thoughts and feedback. Please take a moment to complete this two minute Survey.


Supportive Resources

Some of the resources offered in this Newsletter are operated by organizations/service providers outside of the York Region District School Board (YRDSB). Resources and services may change without notice. We encourage you to contact the service provider directly to learn more about the service(s) being offered.


Free YRDSB and Community Events

NACCA presents T.E.A.C.H. (Date: November 9th to December 14th)

  • Six-week mental health foundational program for Black, Youth (ages 12-25)
  • Contact: or 905-781-6222
  • Register now

Supporting Communication Challenges in Autism Spectrum Disorder (November 22nd)

  • This seminar will provide participants with a comprehensive overview of the expressive & receptive communication challenges faced by children & youth across the Autism Spectrum. Register now.

Moving Forward Hand in Hand (November 23rd & 30th )

  • “Understanding the Impacts of Anti-Black Racism on Children and Youth Mental Health” will be offered in person on November 23rd and repeated on November 30th. These sessions are offered to any parent/guardian of students who identify as Black. Register now.

Introduction to Mental Health (November 29th, 2022 from 7:00 - 8:30 pm)

  • This session in Mandarin and Cantonese will help you gain an understanding of mental health, mental health issues, associated stigma and coping strategies and community resources. Register now.

Teen Triple P Seminar #1 - Raising Responsible Teenagers (November 30th)

  • The Triple P Teen Seminar series targets everyday concerns, such as how to encourage responsible and independent behaviour, improve family relationships, and manage concerns at school and/or with friends. Register now.


Mental Health Team

Patricia Marra-Stapleton, M.Sc., C. Psych. Assoc. 

Mental Health Lead 

Hoshana Calliste, M.S.W., R.S.W

Assistant Coordinator of Mental Health


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