Growing up today is a completely different experience than it was for the previous generation – and while most generations of the last century can say the same, the combination of social media, smartphones, streaming services, and then the two-year pandemic spent largely indoors with families has burdened the current crop of kids with a unique blend of mental stresses that our professionals are just beginning to understand.
The learning curve for our mental health professionals is sharp, but getting it right, and getting the right services to all the kids and young adults who need them, is absolutely vital. As the crises seem to snowball, the speed with which we adapt to them and address them must increase right alongside them. The effort will require a level of collaboration between health disciplines, governments and educational institutions that’s likely never been seen before.
Historically, when such collaborative efforts have been required to address a flood of challenges, organizations have formed to serve as intermediaries, leveraging the expertise of subject matter experts and movement-building professionals to scale up capacities and plug the ever-increasing gaps in services. Luckily, foundations are identifying these gaps, and many have already launched initiatives and programs aimed at nurturing mental health resilience and fostering a supportive learning environment for today’s youth.
One such foundation, Well-being Canada, has rolled out an ambitious, well-balanced program designed to build a culture of mental health awareness for educational institutions. Through lesson plans, accessible resources, and peer support networks, the foundation encourages students to proactively engage in activities promoting mental well-being. Initiatives include mindfulness sessions, stress-management seminars, and peer-led discussions on mental health awareness.
Understanding that today’s students encounter unprecedented stressors, these initiatives are designed not only to offer assistance but also to empower students to take an active role in managing their mental health.
Well-being Canada’s program is designed to provide a roadmap for educators in their efforts to create an inclusive and supportive learning atmosphere. They provide guides and educational modules for implementing mental health initiatives within their schools and local communities.
These initiatives not only empower teachers, but their students as well, breaking down stigmas surrounding mental health conversations. Many students feel ashamed or hesitant to seek help due to fear of judgment. They are hyper-aware of anything that can invite criticism or social ostracization, and they’re also aware of how easily such criticism can be spread on social media. Addressing this stigma through educational programs, open discussions, and campaigns within schools can encourage students to seek support without feeling ostracized. It can also help discourage other students from criticizing those who do need this kind of support.
Delivering these services at an institutional level is key to addressing the growing mental health gaps for youth. But we cannot expect these institutions to always have the capacity to do so. Schools may lack adequate resources, including trained professionals such as counselors or psychologists. Foundations like Well-being Canada are vital for providing the scale of solutions that are needed. Institutions must be open to establishing partnerships with external organizations to provide accessible services for mental health.
We should also be aware that mental health care should be culturally sensitive and inclusive of diverse backgrounds. Many foundations have programs that are culturally specific and can address the concerns of students from different cultural or ethnic backgrounds who might not feel understood or adequately supported. These services can offer diverse perspectives, language assistance, and an important acknowledgment of the impact of cultural nuances on mental health.
The collaborative efforts between these foundations, educational institutions, mental health professionals, and students themselves are already reshaping the landscape of mental health support. By prioritizing early intervention, education, and destigmatization, these initiatives aim to create a more compassionate and mentally resilient generation.
As the conversation around mental health continues to evolve, foundations like Well-being Canada serve as much-needed mediators, promoting a culture where students feel empowered and supported in prioritizing their mental well-being.