In our society, those who seek help with mental health are made to feel like they are alone, but according to Children’s Mental Health Ontario, about one in five children have problems with their mental health. This translates into approximately 50 000 students across the TDSB. According to the TDSB, supporting its students’ mental well-being is “much more than offering a sympathetic ear”. The school board provides many services within their schools to help the students reach their full potential. Some of them include school social workers, psychological services, and mentoring. Students at Marc Garneau have access to:
- a board-hired social worker who is at our school one and a half days every week;
- a social worker from a community agency called Oolagen, who is available at our school two days a week;
- two leadership courses led by Ms. Munro, a certified Guidance teacher, which is aimed at providing mentorship for students of MGCI. Senior Leadership students lead workshops for, and tutor younger grades each semester;
- an art therapist who runs a program called “Expressive Arts”, available two days a week in Room 248;
- and a Focus on Success program where a FOS teacher, an art teacher, and a Youth and Child Worker work together to help students overcome their problems. FOS is a drop-in program for all students; open all five days a week from Period 2 to Period 5.
None of Garneau’s guidance counsellors are social workers, nor are they supposed to be. Neither guidance counsellors nor social workers can diagnose mental illness; only mental health professionals can do that. Instead, the responsibility for guidance counsellors is to talk to the students, to give them advice according to their situation and keep in touch with them to see how they’re doing. If the advice doesn’t work out, they will then refer the students to one of the school’s social workers. All appointments are completely confidential unless it seems that the student may harm themselves, others, or is constantly being harmed by someone else such as a family member. No sort of drugs will ever be prescribed. “More serious issues such as clinical depression or mood disorders are not always understood by students or their families. There are also a lot of stigmas, stereotyping, and bad habits that exist around these issues,” said English and Leadership teacher Ms. Munro, referring to name-calling of troubled students as ‘moody’ or a ‘drama queen’. “When other people stereotype about what mental illness looks like, those who are suffering feel like they can’t talk about it, or they could be labelled as ‘crazy’ by their peers.” According to Ms. Jamal, a Grade 10 Guidance Counsellor, not enough students seek help from the Guidance department, but she’d like to tell them that they’re completely non-judgmental and that the’re no shame in seeking help. Teachers are asked to refer students who could use some help to Guidance, but it’s ultimately up to the student to go forward speak to somebody who will listen. Students of MGCI should look forward to an exclusive art gallery by Art Council from 7-8 May in the galleria and cafeteria during lunch. The gallery’s theme will be the causes and affects of mental health.