Early intervention of student mental health focus of WRDSB approach

The Waterloo Region District School Board says it is committed to providing adequate supports and resources, as well as making sure its staff are well equipped to deal with student mental health needs.

Board employs both tailored response and preventative measures

Peter Rubenschuh, assistant superintendent with the WRDSB says the school, family and community agencies all have a role to play in addressing student mental wellbeing. (Adetayo Bero/ CBC)

Prevention and early intervention are front and center when dealing with student mental health, according to a spokesperson for the Waterloo Region District School Board.

The board is looking to not only tailor its response to the individual mental health needs of the student, but also to create an environment where concerns are addressed before they reach a crisis point.

"It's not just about providing direct services to students," Peter Rubenschuh, assistant superintendent with the Waterloo Region District School Board told The Morning Edition's Craig Norris. 

Despite a focus on getting ahead of the mental health conversation, the board recognizes that students may already be struggling with their mental health, or dealing with stressors that could impact their wellbeing.

So, part of their strategy is making sure teachers and other staff are equipped to handle a mental health crisis or understand the signs and symptoms that often point to mental health concerns.

"It's about building capacity in our educators, so that they recognize [those signs]," Rubenschuh said.

Not the experts

Despite the WRDSB's commitment to making sure they are prepared to deal with student mental health, the need to outsource some of the help and resources necessary for that to happen is inevitable, Rubenschuh said.

That is why the board has established formal and informal relationships with community agencies and mental health professionals who they can call upon when necessary.

"We're not mental health treatment workers, but we're certainly capable of providing access to those pathways," said Rubenschuh.

He also highlighted the importance of family in developing these mental health strategies for kids.

"The family are the primary caregivers [and] they know their child best," he said.

Ultimately, Rubenschuh added, school should be a place where students can feel a sense of belonging, inclusion and connectedness