Student Mental Health and Addictions Newsletter - March 2024

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Time for a Break! 

Dear Families, 

In this edition, we will focus on the value of taking a break. While we acknowledge that taking a break can be difficult due to busy schedules and the demands of multiple responsibilities, we encourage everyone to recognize that breaks can be hugely beneficial in a variety of ways. Breaks can be a chance to slow-down, reflect, have fun, and connect with loved ones, or cultural groups. Breaks may even allow us to rejuvenate and feel better equipped to take on life’s stressors. We want to remind you that breaks don’t have to be big to be effective. Take some time to consider what kind of break is possible for you and your family.  We acknowledge that everyone will take breaks in different ways and that is OK! For some helpful tips on fun March break activities, please see the end of this newsletter.

Updates in Schools 

Mental Health Curriculum for Grades 7-8 

The York Region District School Board is excited to introduce new Health and Physical Education (HPE) Mental Health Literacy Lessons for students in grades 7 and 8. In alignment with Ministry of Education directives, these lessons aim to provide culturally responsive, evidence-informed mental health literacy education. The modules are being introduced this school year and aim to enhance students' understanding of mental health, mental illness, the significance of mental health awareness, and strategies for managing stress and seeking support. Developed in collaboration with School Mental Health Ontario (SMH-ON) and experts from SickKids Hospital, the content is available in English and French, with an American Sign Language module forthcoming. Each grade will have three, 40-minute modules tailored to address specific learning objectives. Additionally, resources for parents/guardians will be made available to extend learning and conversation about mental health beyond the classroom, including tips for recognizing and supporting mental health issues. This initiative represents a significant step forward in our commitment to fostering a supportive and informed school community around mental health.

Substance Use

Raising awareness about how substance use can impair mental health is an ongoing objective of our YRDSB Student Mental health and Addiction Strategy. When we think about substance use across the lifespan, it may feel like there is uncertainty in how to talk to your kids about use. School Mental Health Ontario shares this helpful image of a substance use continuum for us to understand substance use in youth. 

Substance Use Continuum. Line with an arrow at the end pointing to the right. The following text appears on the continuum from left to right. No use. Benefical Use - e.g. use under medical supervision. Non-Problematic - e.g. use wothout any physical of mental health impacts. Problematic Use - e.g. patterns and types of use that have a higher risk of physical and mental health impacts. Potentially Harmful - e.g. episodic use that can and may be leading to harmful impacts. Substance Use Disorder.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction created this resource for navigating conversations around substance use. It was co-designed with youth to help guide conversations. It can help us reflect on our own opinions and biases when it comes to substances, and how to prepare for conversations. It reminds us to be supportive, genuine and transparent as we communicate with youth. This resource connects us back to the substance use continuum to help understand the diversity in what use looks like.

March Break Ideas 

Activities to do at home


Supportive Resources

Mental Health Resources in York Region

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 needs.
  • Monday, Tuesday, Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. 

CMHA BounceBack Ontario

  • Do you feel that maybe you could benefit from some support? BounceBack® provides access resources to support learning new skills, including a trained coach who can provide up to six telephone sessions.
  • BounceBack Coaching is available through the provincial Ontario Structured Psychotherapy program. Offered to youth aged 15-17 and adults 18+.

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 


Community Mental Health Events



March Break Opportunity

York Services Support Network

Kerry's Place Autism Services 




Yorkhills Centre for Children, Youth and Families

Family Services York Region

  •  Free To Be
    • Third Monday of Each Month, 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
    • This is a free virtual group for parents/caregivers of gender diverse children, regardless of age which meets once a month. Free to Be offers an opportunity to meet for support and education. The goal of this program is to destigmatize gender diversity

Kinark Autism Services  


  • 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. 
  • Online Registration



Mental Health Team

This edition of the newsletter was written by the Student Mental Health and Addictions Strategy Implementation Team 2023-2024, inclusive of YRDSB School Social Workers Ruth Damdar, Kymani Spence, Peter Reid and Kate Phillips.

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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