Student Mental Health and Addictions Newsletter - February 2023

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Feeling the Warmth in Winter

Dear Families, 

In this edition we will focus on acknowledging both the transition and limitations of the Winter season. As many high school students have finished exams and begin a new semester and our elementary school students continue to grow and develop, we hope to share some tips for maximizing enjoyment with your family, and ways to find support at this time. We will also be sharing some helpful tips about March Break, Family day, and available recreational community resources. 

Helpful Strategies for Supporting Mental Health during Winter:

Gratitude: One helpful activity for families and students to engage in is a gratitude practice. This can be done by creating a gratitude jar in your home and having family members contribute items, or write down experiences they have enjoyed, people they are grateful for, positive experiences or memories- use your creativity! While creating space to reflect on the joys that can be found, we also want to encourage acknowledging the challenges that many are facing at this time.

Colouring: While it can be more difficult to stay engaged in activities through the winter months, mandala colouring has been shown to help decrease stress and anxiety and improve mindfulness (being aware of our thoughts). There are many free printable colouring sheets available online that you can print for your child(ren) to use as a calming activity. Click this link to see an example: Mandala Colouring.

Movement: Encouraging your child(ren) to move their body and get some fresh air is another helpful way to support mental health in the winter months. Often we don’t move our bodies as much in the winter months. Our children may get outside and/or move the body during the school day, but it can also be helpful to do after school and on the weekends. Getting the body moving helps to release endorphins, which can help relieve stress, it helps exert energy, can help with focus and concentration, and can help with processing emotions. It can be tempting to stay inside and get cozy when the weather isn’t inviting. A simple accessible option is walk or move in a Mall when cold.  You and your child(ren) can walk or move and stay warm if the outdoors aren’t for you. Also please visit York Region Trails to learn about trails near you.

Connection: Staying connected to family, friends and community are also a great way to support Mental Health over the winter months. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) reminds us that social support can come in a variety of forms such as emotional support, and also practical help. Creating support networks can be challenging, and CMHA also has some helpful suggestions on this.  Resources like the Peer Support Warm Line can be a helpful resource for adults to connect with peer support if feeling anxious, worried or isolated. 

Free Virtual Movement Programs for Kids: 

Free Virtual Educational Programs for Kids: 

Free Virtual Mental Health Activities for Kids: 

Resources for Community Involvement 


Supportive Resources

YorkHills Here to Help Line (905-503-9561) 

  • The Here to Help Line is a free service available to children/youth (0-18 years) and their parents/caregiver/adult supporters.
  • Monday to Thursday from 2:00p.m-7:00p.m 

Family Services York Region (905-895-2371)

  • Virtual walk in is operated on a first come, first serve basis, and can be accessed once per month.
  • Virtual appointments can be 15 minutes to 1.5 hours long depending on your specific needs.
  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 

YRDSB Mental Health Resource Page

  • Continue to check out the YRDSB website for updated information as well as the Twitter account @YRDSB
  • Follow YRDSB Mental Health on Twitter @MH_YRDSB


Free Community Events

York Hills Centre for Children, Youth and Families 

Centre for Immigration and Community Services

  • Virtual and in person programs, Registration can be found here 

Hong Fook

  • In Person Walk in Counselling- ages 12 to 25 and their families
    • February 1, March 1, and April 5, 4-8 p.m - Markham 3621 Highway 7 #301
    • February 4, March 4, April 1, 11 a.m- 3 p.m. Downtown Toronto, 407 Huron Street 
    • To access this service, please call 647-534-8493 or email


  • Coffee Night, held every second Monday of the month, is a safe space where members of the LGBTQ2 community, their friends, family or allies can come together. 
  • Registration can be found here  


 Mental Health Team

This edition of the Newsletter was written by the Student Mental Health and Addictions Strategy Implementation Team 2022-2023, inclusive of YRDSB School Social Workers Afsaneh Zafarani,  Kate Phillips and Nicole Gough.

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

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

Paula Vicente M.S.W., R.S.W.


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