Mental health supports in schools lacking, students say in survey

One-third of students think mental health resources are lacking in their school, according to findings of a province-wide survey by the Ontario Student Trustees Association.

The province-wide survey collected data from 5,000 students, parents and educators

Several findings of a recent province-wide survey by the Ontario Student Trustees Association (OSTA-AECO) of high school students, parents and educators, shows findings on mental health and well being and student voice. (Waterloo Unlimited)

One-third of students believe mental health resources are lacking at their school and a quarter of students feel their school doesn't value a student's health and wellbeing, according to results of a province-wide survey of high school students, parents and educators. 

The Ontario Student Trustees Association (OSTA-AECO) conducted the survey for the 2015-2016 school year. Over 5,000 people across Ontario responded to the survey that was meant to be an assessment of Ontario's education system from the perspective of students, parents and educators.

Caitlin Ennis, a grade 11 student at Erin District High School in Erin, Ont. and a member of the OSTA-AECO, said she was surprised at the statistic about students feeling a lack in mental health resources. She was speaking to Craig Norris, host of The Morning Edition on CBC Radio Tuesday.

"But it also enlightened my hopes because it told me that two-thirds of the students felt that their schools did have mental health resources and supports." 

Shedding light on mental health

The survey was conducted during the same school year when there were a number of student suicides in Woodstock, Ont. Just this early November, there was also a student suicide in Fergus, Ont. 

Ennis said as a result of those events, there has been more recognition for the importance of mental health support and awareness of students who seek out those supports.

"The awareness around the topic of suicide has been raised throughout the schools because it is a tragic issue that sadly occurs," said Ennis.

"The resources are there and the foundation is laid, so hopefully we can make it more aware to students and tell students it's all right to take these resources." 

Student voices not heard

Something else that came out of the survey is that one in three students said their voice has no impact on decision making.

"The Ontario Student, Parent, and Educator Survey results reveal that a large group of students feel voiceless in their school community," said OSTA-AECO President Dasha Metropolitansky in a release.

 "Student voice is often reduced to a buzzword, however the ability of young people to shape their future should never be used for rhetorical flourish."

Ennis, also a student trustee with the Upper Grand District School Board, said she wants to make sure students know their voices matter.

"Hopefully these survey results can help students as well that yes, their voice can be heard because you have a whole association of people that are fighting for your voice as well," she said.