Local Educators Learn to Handle Student Mental Health Issues

Windsor and Essex County educators became students on Thursday.

The Ontario College of Teachers visited Windsor to launch a professional advisory to its members on how to support students with mental health issues.

It is estimated that 1.2-million children and  youth are affected by mental illness, yet less than 20% get appropriate treatment.

About 60 teachers and school staff attended Thursday morning's meeting in Windsor and heard teachers are there to observe, take note and to be a link to connect the students to help.

Teachers are not there to diagnose, but since they spend so much time with students, they may notice subtle changes in their behaviour.

College Deputy Registrar Joe Jamieson says teachers are technically 'tier one' with respect to intervening.

"It is from that privilege we have as teachers to have that time with students who trust us and in the climate of trust, we step up to the plate and we practice our ethic of care," he says.

Grade 12 student at Vincent Massey Iman Berry sat on the panel and says in some cases, students themselves aren't aware they need help.

"A lot of students are feeling a certain way," says Berry.  "So at one of our student senate meetings, we had a presentation about stress and some students just didn't know that they were stressed because after a certain time, when you are so stressed, you stop feeling the physical symptoms of stress."

Berry pointed out there are 2,100 students at Vincent Massey with only four guidance counsellors.  She says in many cases, students who seek help turn to their guidance counsellor but it's important to know that teachers can help too.

The Ontario College of Teachers has issued seven advisories since 1997 ranging from bullying, social media and safety and learning environment.