Inaugural conference puts focus on B.C. students and their mental health

Education Minister Rob Flemming announces expansion for ERASE guide to include mental wellness

B.C. teachers, police and health workers joined forces under one roof this week looking at how schools can better resources for students battling with mental-health.

The inaugural two-day School Community Mental Health Conference in Richmond gathered more than 300 educators and experts May 10 and 11.

There, students shared personal anecdotes of how they navigate through their mental health, express their sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as what it’s like being in government care.

The focus of the conference was prevention and early intervention – and how it can start in the classroom – when school officials see a student struggling.

“We know there’s a gap in student success for those that struggle with mental-health issues. We must all take action now to support young people and provide intervention strategies earlier,” Education Minister Rob Fleming said in a statement.

About one-in-eight students in B.C. experience one or more mental-health disorders at any given time. Of those 84,000 students, only one-third receives specialized treatment, the province said.

READ MORE: Anti-bullying plan includes whistle-blowing phone app

There are 15,075 students that currently have a mental-illness or behaviours designation at their school. That means those students receive extra services and supports, supplied through their school and funded through the ministry off education’s special education services.

During the conference, Fleming announced the expansion of ERASE, a comprehensive training guide and strategy for parents and teachers for how to help students through issues such as bullying, preventing violence and school connectedness.

Starting in the upcoming school year, Fleming said ERASE will offer resources for mental health and wellness, social media and sexual orientation and gender identity.

The training guide will also include stronger information-sharing between school districts and local law enforcement agencies, an improved anonymous safety reporting tool and a provincial SOGI advisory group comprised of education partners, Fleming said.

Since its launch in 2012, ERASE has trained more than 17,000 school district staff and community partners, and more than 700 incidents have been reported through its incident reporting tool, according to the province.


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