Belmont Secondary School is among those in the Sooke School District that benefit from a strong administrative approach to mental health resources and education. (Black Press Media file photo)

Belmont Secondary School is among those in the Sooke School District that benefit from a strong administrative approach to mental health resources and education. (Black Press Media file photo)

West Shore resident seeks more robust offerings for youth mental health

Sooke School District offers range of mental health education Kindergarten through Grade 12

One school trustee hopes to see a more robust plea for mental health funding in the Sooke School District.

Wendy Hobbs broached the subject during a January SD62 meeting, asking the board of education to start discussions with community partners, nearby municipalities and the province about increasing services and programs supporting child and youth health and mental wellness.

“It’s really important and I’ve always said we need more resources in our schools because that’s where our kids are from five years old to 18,” Hobbs said.

Speaking as a parent of now-adult children, the increased need struck Hobbs especially after the heartbreaking death of a local teen. Two days after Langford teen Andre Courtemanche disappeared into the cold night, his parents received a phone call to book an appointment for the 16-year-old with a psychiatrist. They had been waiting two years and it was too late.

A poster for the program the Sooke School District offers. It includes a QR code offering youth with smart phones direct access to resources. (Courtesy SD62)

On the evening of Jan. 9, searchers found Andre’s body in Goldstream Provincial Park.

READ ALSO: Calls for changes, barriers at Goldstream Trestle after Langford teen’s death

As a school trustee, Hobbs stressed the district does well for its students with current funding.

Vanessa White, district principal for safe and healthy schools, said the biggest asset in its arsenal is the counselling team. Forming a “first line of defence,” each school has a trained counsellor with a background in social emotional learning and mental health. The team works with teachers and students and supports parents.

That team is augmented by a unique partnership SD62 has with the provincial Ministry of Children and Family Development – three school-based social workers. Their role extends outside the classroom, helping students and families beyond the schoolyard.

READ ALSO: Your guide to mental health resources in Greater Victoria

The district also has benefit of a mental health clinician, also an initiative with MCFD.

Programming done wrong can do dangerous damage, White noted, so with designated mental health funding from the Ministry of Education each year, the district focuses on specific programs that are evidence based, research backed and proven to do good work around mental health. White seeks programs for all levels of instructors to pass along to the youngest students right through to graduation.

This year at least one program for educators is through teenmentalhealth.org which also offers free resources for parents.

READ ALSO: Calls for increased mental health support following death of Langford teen

As a start, in response to Hobbs’ January motion, SD62 reaffirmed its commitment to working with all community partners.

For Hobbs as a resident, that includes local government taking a role, and considering youth amenities while developing the community.

“Development isn’t just about housing, it’s about making sure your residents have the infrastructure, doctors, clinics,” she said.

If you or someone you know is struggling, call the provincial suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-suicide (1-800-784-2433), or visit crisislines.bc.ca to find local mental health and crisis resources.

READ ALSO: Documentary exposes youth sex trafficking in Greater Victoria


 

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