By Deneka Michaud, Manager of Communications, SD37 (Delta)
In the spring, roughly 250 students in the Delta School District came together for a day dedicated to addressing mental health for youth. The second annual Delta Youth Conference was organized by students for students, and it was students who decided that mental health needed to be the focus of the event.
“I’m glad we had mental health as a focus this year. It needs to be more present and talked about. The resources need to be available and all the kids need to know they are not alone,” said Hannah, one of the student event organizers.
The day consisted of a variety of presentations and workshops. Qmunity offered a session titled “Are you Queer Smart?” and Safe Teen presented two sessions titled “Power of Choice” and “My Body is not Your Playground”. Other sessions included Aboriginal Powwow dancing and yoga. A keynote presentation by Seaquam Secondary School alumni Steve Darling empowered students with the message that they can do whatever they choose if they put their minds to it.
The first annual Delta Youth Conference, which took place the year prior, also shared a mental health related theme of helping youth find balance in their lives. The conference receives support from the Delta School District, Boys and Girls Clubs of South Coast BC, Delta Police and Ministry of Children and Family Development.
“The youth in our community recognize the importance of raising the awareness of mental health issues among children and teens. We are supporting them to reach their peers through this interactive conference. It is also an excellent opportunity for our school district to connect students to the resources that are available to them,” said Maryann Cardwell, district vice-principal, special programs, Delta School District.
In addition to the student-led Delta Youth Conference, there are a vast array of initiatives, programs, resources and community partnerships geared at addressing youth mental health. These include:
- Friends for Life
- Zones of Regulation
- Super Flex
- Worry Dragons
- Mindup (Social Emotional Learning)
- Social Emotional Learning and self-regulation – there are learning supports for school teams, as well as alternate/Supportive Learning programs that are implementing Stanley Kutcher’s Mental Health Curriculum. This curriculum is used as a guide to teaching coping strategies to students as part of the curriculum in the Strategies credited courses.
- Supportive Learning programs – support students with anxiety so that they can remain in their neighborhood schools and continue to be integrated to the best of their abilities.
- Close partnership with the Delta Police School Liaison Officer program.
- Partnership with Corporation of Delta in hiring a family therapist to support families.
- Two District-Interagency programs for students requiring intensive wrap-around support.
- Child and Youth Care workers in every school – keeping connected with students who are struggling, and offering breakfast, lunch and after-school programs.
- Partnership with Child and Youth Mental Health – therapists in our schools running groups and seeing students.
- Child and Youth Mental Health Substance Use Collaborative
The Delta Board of Education is paramount to the support of mental health services to students in the Delta School District. School trustees in Delta recognize the importance of these services and resources, and allocate funds accordingly to ensure Delta School District staff are able to support students in this regard. Trustees also work to create inter-agency connections at the local, regional and provincial levels in support of mental health services. Another key role trustees play is the ongoing advocacy they undertake for additional resources required to help ensure student wellbeing. The Delta School District’s mission is to enable all learners to succeed and contribute their full potential to the future.
“As Trustees we are responsible for improving student achievement, and supporting students’ wellbeing is essential if they are going to achieve their full potential. Therefore, our Board of Education sees the provision of mental health supports as a foundational component of achieving our mission,” said Laura Dixon, Chairperson, Delta Board of Education.