Mental Health Week, Children's Mental Health Week recognized nationally last week
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Last week residents, businesses, and organizations across the country took part in National Mental Health Week, Maternal Mental Health Week and Children's Mental Health Week from May 4 to 10.
The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) organizes Mental Health Week annually, and they said this year’s theme focuses on making social connections and “getting real”.
“This year’s theme is social connection – because connecting with other people and our communities doesn’t just feel good; it’s good for our mental health, too. Research shows that social connection and social support are factors that protect and promote good mental health. Feeling socially connected means you feel close and connected to others, and you don’t have to be in physical proximity to nurture a sense of closeness and connection. Social isolation and loneliness can negatively impact our mental health, no matter who we are, so “getting real” about how we feel, matters. Of course, listening to someone and truly hearing what they say, is equally important,” the CMHA shared.
“As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, we need each other now more than ever. It’s time to #GetReal about how we feel and lean on others for support. As we move beyond Mental Health Week, let’s say more than just “I’m fine.” Let’s have real conversations with our friends, neighbours and coworkers about how we’re all really doing. We’re in this together. In these days of physical distancing, we are learning that we don’t have to be close to feel close. We are together, even when we’re apart,” they continued.
On May 4, FIREFLY announced they’re preparing for an increase in demand for child and youth mental health services. Through social media, FIREFLY shared activities, resources, and ways to connect with service providers as part of recognizing Children's Mental Health Week.
“The pandemic has been challenging for all families, but for families that include children with mental illness, it can be even more difficult and our agency is preparing for a major uptick in demand for child and youth mental health services,” FIREFLY stated.
“Signs to look for that may indicate your child may need mental health support to help them manage anxiety can include physical symptoms such as stomach aches, nausea, difficulties breathing, a faster heartbeat, muscle tension, sweatiness, shakiness, dizziness, and headaches. Anxiety can also affect a child’s behaviour by causing increased irritability, sleep challenges, or difficulties separating from parents.
“Mental health service providers are deemed an essential service and are as important as physical health. You can find help locally for children and youth by calling FIREFLY’s Centralized Intake at 1-833-696-5437 or at cmho.org/findhelp. For adult family members connexontario.ca can connect you to resources near you,” FIREFLY informed.
Both the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board (KPDSB) and The Northwest Catholic District School Board (TNCDSB) recognized Children's Mental Health Week last week. The KPDSB said they organized activities, and provided resources, throughout the week such as yoga, self-care tips, and free virtual talks for parents and students.
“We’ve been sending out student memos with some of the activities that are being sponsored by our school board, but also reminders for our students on how to be caring for their mental health and their wellness during this time. We’re also sharing, with staff, ideas on how they can remain mentally well in particular during this time of distancing,” said Jennifer McMaster, Sioux North High School Vice Principal.
“We’re running parallel with some of the things that are happening board-wide. For example, this week some of the classes are doing yoga, self-care, and not so much strenuous work but well-being,” said Darryl Tinney, Sioux Mountain Public School Principal.
TNCDSB also provided activities, tips, and resources through social media, which was put together by their mental health team.
“We’ve had our mental health team create some videos and tip sheets for parents, families, and educators that we’ve been sharing on our board website and our Facebook page on different topics. Every day was a different topic and different people from our mental health team or partners in the community, so it could be a mental health and addictions nurse, school councillors, child and youth workers, and myself, so there was a few people that posted information and shared that out. There was also a mindfulness scavenger hunt that was sent out for families to do… Everything is posted on our board Facebook page (@tncdsb),” said Riley Keast, TNCDSB Mental Health Lead.
In a news release on May 5, the Government of Ontario announced expansions to virtual mental health services during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Starting today, the Ontario government is expanding virtual mental health services to help thousands of Ontarians experiencing anxiety and depression, including frontline health care workers, during the COVID-19 outbreak. These Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT) programs were developed in partnership with MindBeacon and Morneau Shepell and will be provided at no out-of-pocket costs to Ontarians across the province,” the media release stated.
“As part of the government's $12 million commitment to mental health during COVID-19, the emergency funding is helping mental health agencies hire and train more staff, purchase the necessary equipment and technology they need to help patients, and support the creation and enhancement of virtual and online supports for mental health services including:
Internet-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT): Clients can self-refer to programs through the various service providers listed and be guided through their client journey to find the appropriate supports they need. Online iCBT is supported by therapists and available in English and French.
Supports for frontline health care workers: Online iCBT is available to frontline health care workers experiencing anxiety, burnout or post-traumatic stress disorder. Those requiring intensive levels of care could be referred to virtual face-to-face care, as well as weekly online peer discussion groups and access to confidential support from a clinician.
Virtual mental health support services: These include BounceBack telephone coaching and workbooks, and Kids Help Phone for children and youth,” the release explained.