Ontario public schools need support for youth mental health after pandemic: survey


Published February 27, 2023 at 4:59 pm

Hundreds of Ontario principals say they need more help to support the mental health of students, as a new survey indicates regional inequities in access to those supports. 

The survey of over 1,000 principals across Ontario’s publicly funded school boards reveals 91 per cent of schools needed support for students’ mental health and well-being. 

The survey was released Monday against the backdrop of a number of recent reports finding youth mental health worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, with fewer young people reporting excellent mental health and an uptick in self-harm-related emergency department visits.

Advocacy group People for Education says its annual survey, covering all of Ontario’s 72 publicly funded boards, found students in rural communities were less likely to have access to mental health professionals than those in urban areas. 

Meanwhile, it reports the number of schools with no access to psychologists doubled in the past decade, up to 28 per cent and 29 per cent for elementary and secondary schools, respectively. 

People for Education says about 9 per cent of Ontario public schools have regular access to a mental health specialist or nurse, with 46 per cent of schools reporting no access at all. 

The group says principals have called on the Ontario Ministry of Education to fund sufficient staff, increase access to community supports and recognize the impact of the pandemic on school communities. 

In response to the survey, a spokesperson for Education Minister Stephen Lecce says the government has increased funding for mental health and will continue to take action to support Ontario students. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2023. 

— The Canadian Press

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