HealthIT education

Richmond student calling for mental health education course in B.C. schools

RICHMOND (NEWS 1130) — A Richmond high school student is calling on the ministry of education to implement a mandatory Mental Health Education course.

The ministry says it’s invested millions of dollars into school-based mental health supports since 2017, but Grade 10 student DJ Gill says she doesn’t think it’s good enough.

“I’ve never been given any mental health education or any information,” she says.

Like many other students this year, Gill says she’s been feeling lonely and isolated with the COVID-19 pandemic changing the daily routines she’s used to.

“People I used to see on a daily basis, I barely see them now because of scheduling. The schedule is really broken up,” she says.

This past December, Gill launched an Instagram account called Teach Mental Health BC, and she wrote a letter to the Ministry of Education asking for a mental health education course to be implemented.

“It would really just create the conversation and I think it would help reduce stigma and really just bring people together and in understanding that it is okay to feel like this,” she explains.

Gill received an email back from the ministry outlining what she calls ineffective mental health supports.

“Creating more ways for students to reach out for help — I don’t think that’ll really help students. I think involuntarily providing information is what will help us and not give us an opportunity to neglect it if we’re taught the same way we’re taught math and English.”

In a statement to CityNews — the Ministry of Education says “mental well-being is one of the four key areas of study required in the physical and health education curriculum” and points to a new mental health in schools strategy and a website with mental health resources.

“I think that it just gets really underweight with P.E. Physical health education is really just targeted on interacting with people … so I think that if it’s more targeted, we’ll actually get the information that we need,” Gill adds.

The Richmond School District also says it’s committed to providing social-emotional learning and mental health supports to students, families, and educators.

“Recently, the Ministry of Education’s Annual Student Learning Survey, taken by students across the province, indicated that grade 10 students in Richmond ranked higher than the provincial average when asked if they were learning about mental health,” the district says.

At her school, Gill says the only sort of support mechanism students have to talk to their counsellors.

While advocating for a mental health course, Gill encourages her peers who are having a hard time.

“Talk to someone you trust, talk to someone, one of your family members. Do something you enjoy.”

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