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Making mental health in schools a priority
Making mental health in schools a priority
September 09, 2019

It was his senior year at Burlington’s Corpus Christi High School. As a Grade 12 student, Mike Pierre liked doing all the things that teenagers do. He loved cars, history, playing hockey and joking with friends.

On Nov. 24, 2017, he took a university campus tour, worked a few hours at his part-time job and got together with friends. The night before he went to the school dance. Anyone observing him would see a healthy kid heading to adulthood. On Nov. 25, Mike took his own life.

Three weeks earlier, on his 17th birthday, Mike posted a message using a secret social media account. In the post he expressed his feelings of depression and suicide. Many people saw his post but didn’t understand the significance of the message until it was too late.

Nearly two years later, Natalie and Paul Pierre are trying to help spare other families the loss they feel every day.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, (CAMH) reports that in any given year one in five people in Canada experience a mental health problem or illness. They also found that young people 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group.

Starting this school year, changes to the elementary health and physical education curriculum require all Ontario school boards to integrate mental health concepts and resources into their teaching for grades 1 to 8.

Teachers, students and parents know that Ontario’s high schools are the cornerstone of mental health education. If secondary school students are empowered with knowledge, and dialogue is encouraged, students can learn how to optimize and maintain good mental health. They can also learn to recognize when a friend or loved one might be struggling and know when and where to get help.

I was pleased to hear from Stephen Lecce, Ontario’s Minister of Education, that the ministry is currently looking at updates to the health and physical education curriculum, to include mental health literacy and awareness for high school students.

Since the 1990s in Quebec, and more recently in British Columbia, New York, Florida and Virginia, mental health education has been included in high school curriculums. Currently, mental health instruction is inconsistent across schools in Canada and the United States.

That’s why the Pierre family and I are asking for your help to encourage all provincial and territorial governments to make mental health education a priority in elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools. Sign our petition at https://yoursay.janemckennampp.ca/mentalhealth. With your help we can make a difference.

[Click Here to view  the original article from the Burlington Post's September 09, 2019 Issue.]

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