What's it about?
Building mental health literacy is a strategy to improve mental health across our education system. It's primarily focused on teachers and school staff, but also extends to students and families. It aims to:
- Increase understanding of mental health
- Decrease stigma in classrooms and schools
- Recognize mental illness in its early stages
- Improve students’ ability to get help
This strategy helps adults in your school community get comfortable talking about mental health, so they can help young people build mental health literacy too. It's an important way to help students get through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Building mental health literacy means taking practical steps to improve your mental health knowledge, understanding, and skills. In time, you'll be better positioned to support students through life's ups-and-downs.
Here are some ways to get started:
- Reflect on mental health and what it means to you. Your views are likely influenced by your assumptions, your experiences, and the beliefs of those around you.
- Identify your areas for growth. If possible, connect them back to a school development plan, professional learning plan, or the needs of your students.
Tap into local training
- Learn about the evidence-based, high-quality learning opportunities available to you. Start with those from the Alberta Mental Health Literacy Project, offered by Alberta Health Services in partnership with school authorities across the province:
- Go-To Educator Training: Workshops for school staff to boost their confidence to identify, support, and refer students showing early signs of mental health problems.
- High School Curriculum Guide Training: Professional learning for teachers about how to use our mental health literacy curriculum resource in junior high and high school classrooms.
- Core Trainer Sessions: Certification for trainers so that they're qualified to offer our Go-To Educator Training or High School Curriculum Guide Training in their school authority.
Expand your learning
Ongoing professional development is part of building mental health literacy. It includes building our understanding of:
- Child and adolescent development and psychology
- Implicit bias, anti-racism, anti-oppression, and cultural competence
- Mental health conditions, early interventions, and treatments
- Positive behaviour
- Self-care for mental health
- Social emotional skills
- Social media and online safety
- Supporting students through transitions and changes
- Trauma-informed practice
- Whole school approaches to positive mental health
Alberta Health Services and our provincial and local school health partners offer training in many of these areas. For more information, visit training for educators.
Know the pathway through care
A critical part of mental health literacy is knowing what to do when you notice someone who is struggling. Follow the protocols in place in your school authority. If you’re not sure what they are, talk to the designated mental health lead or ask your school administrator.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, you can also look to these key sources for mental health information and support:
- Alberta COVID-19 youth mental health resource hub
- Alberta mental health help line
- Help in tough times
How it connects
Mental health literacy gives school communities a common language and understanding around mental health, and helps to normalize conversations. It's an important way to improve the early identification of mental illness. When we recognize problems early, we can get students the help they need to be successful in recovery.
You might also like these related topics:
Brain story certification
Alberta Family Wellness Initiative
Supporting every student learning series
PolicyWise for Children & Families
Working together to support mental health in Alberta schools
Government of Alberta