Saskatchewan commits to provide mental health first aid for schools
By Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
PRINCE ALBERT DAILY HERALD
On Wednesday, the Government of Saskatchewan announced a $400,000 commitment to provide mental health first aid training to at least one staff member in each Saskatchewan school.
This would make mental health first aid available to students, when needed, similar to physical first aid. The intention to launch such a program was announced earlier this year, but Wednesday’s amount is the first time the project has had a dollar figure attached to it.
“Our goal is to have at least one staff member in each school receive mental health first aid training by the end of 2021,” Education Minister Dustin Duncan said in a release from the province.
“We are excited to support schools in ensuring students have access to mental health resources, and I encourage all provincial school divisions to take part to help remove the stigma around mental health.”
Since 2017-18, the government has offered up to $9,000 in grants to school divisions for training to build capacity in their schools related to mental health and student safety and they say this new funding builds on that commitment.
Moving training online
Mental health first aid is a training program developed by the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC).
The in-person training is currently being transitioned to be available online in 2021. The Ministry of Education will work with Saskatchewan school divisions to coordinate the training sessions, with little disruptions to the school day.
Online delivery will help keep the sessions safe for staff in these uncertain times.
“We commend the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education for its timely investment and commitment to providing Mental Health First Aid training for each of the province’s Kindergarten to Grade 12 schools,” MHCC President and CEO Louise Bradley said.
“We are delighted to hear that the ministry intends to create an online option for school division staff to take mental health first aid training.”
The mental health first aid training was a recommendation from the Minister’s 2019-20 Youth Council.
“The mental well-being of students is a crucial part of positive and effective learning environments,” 2019-20 Youth Council member Sandra LeBlanc said.
“The new mental health first aid initiative will be a good first step in ensuring that all Saskatchewan students have access to the support they need, one of the priorities of the 2019-20 Youth Council.”
Mental health first aid can be provided to a person who is developing a mental health concern or who is in a mental health crisis. The training teaches individuals to recognize the symptoms of mental health problems, how to provide initial help and guide a person toward appropriate professional help. Studies show that mental health first aid training results in improved mental health literacy and decreased stigmatization toward mental health concerns.