Looking after one’s mental health and well-being goes hand-in-hand with learning. Located in all regions of the board, there are professional and dedicated staff available for students and staff alike.
Near North District School Board (NNDSB)’s mental health team is comprised of a mental health lead, social workers, child development counsellors (commonly known as youth counsellors), brief and attendance counsellors, Indigenous youth and family outreach workers, and mental health and addictions nurses.
All of these professionals interact with educators, students, parents/guardians and community partners to deliver mental health promotion, prevention, group services and brief intervention services in all regions serving the board’s 34 schools. The team’s overarching goal is to create circles of care around students in support of their academic achievement and helping them reach their fullest potential.
Most, if not all departments and services offered in the education sector have, at one point or another during COVID-19, strategized and re-imagined how services and educational learning are administered. Mental health services are no different.
Sue Lessard, NNDSB’s mental health lead, outlines how their services have adapted and enhanced services for students.
“Our team is better connected. We can quickly consult with each other on a daily basis. Connecting with a student virtually not only saves time, but also offers faster and enhanced supports for that student,” says Lessard. Since it can be done remotely, many students seem to prefer this method. “Depending on the student, face-to-face can be awkward for them so some students really like online, on the phone or even texting,” she adds. Lessard notes it’s important to know what platforms students engage on to better support their individual needs to building that trust connection.
“The ability to connect with students virtually has helped and made our services more accessible,” says fellow social worker Steven Spack.
Lessard adds the team works closely with the student’s school to develop a circle of care plan to help support that student.
“When we develop a plan, it’s also thinking how can that teacher support the student in the class and discussing with the principal how the school culture can incorporate social and emotional learning to enhance that student’s experience,” says Lessard.
The mental health team has created campaigns and challenges to help students with their mind, body, and soul. One of the campaigns is called Thrive in a Hive. Lessard notes there will be new challenges coming and asks people to watch for them on Instagram @NNDSBsupports.
As part of NNDSB’s mental health services team, child development counsellors are located in the schools.
Working at West Ferris Secondary School (WFSS), Sue Beaulieu is one of the many dedicated counsellors. She has been in her position at WFSS for seven years. “Here at West Ferris, I have a very supportive administration and I feel very lucky to have such a great staff to work with,” she says.
When a student comes in for the first time and they seem apprehensive about talking, Beaulieu’s caring and compassionate skillset allows for that trust connection to be developed. Some of the students may only need to come in once or twice, but others make it a regular visit to share some things that they are having a difficult time with.
“We’re here to listen and being there for the student in that moment. Sometimes I don’t even try to sort through the problems until the second or third session because they just have so much to share,” she says, Beaulieu says that as counsellors it’s not them who solve the problems, it’s the students. “A lot of the time I will have a student thank me for solving their problems and my response is always ‘I didn’t solve your problem, you did.’ I was just there to encourage, listen, and possibly provide more resources. It’s the individual who works through their challenges.”
To learn more about mental health services at NNDSB, visit the board website.