Nova Scotia

Mental health supports program now available at all N.S. schools

One-third of students in Nova Scotia schools have accessed SchoolsPlus, a program meant to provide mental health services and supports such as mentoring and homework clubs, according to the province.

Social workers, mental health clinicians and community outreach workers connect with students

Education Minister Zach Churchill spoke at Citadel High School in Halifax. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

One-third of students in Nova Scotia schools have accessed SchoolsPlus, a program meant to provide mental health services and supports such as mentoring and homework clubs, according to the province.

Education Minister Zach Churchill highlighted SchoolsPlus Thursday for World Mental Health Day. The province has invested a total of $11.8 million in the program and the minister said as of September, it's available to all students in all 370 schools.

A pilot program started in 2008 and it was expanded to all school boards in the 2011-2012 school year. There are now 84 community outreach workers, 41 facilitators and social workers and 53 mental health clinicians, who work for the Nova Scotia Health Authority or the IWK. 

"If you are experiencing any sort of stress related to school or have questions, please reach out to SchoolPlus contacts. They can be very helpful for you," Churchill told a small group of educators and students at an event at Citadel High School in Halifax. 

Alenne Adekayode, a Grade 12 student, said school work can get overwhelming for students and the program helps people come up with a plan to get back on track with their assignments and their mental health. 

"Some of my friends who are struggling with mental health and stuff, it's really hard for them to get out of bed and even do simple tasks," Adekayode said after Churchill's event. 

"With the help of SchoolsPlus you can communicate with your parents and your teachers more effectively. Not only can you do well in school, but you can also address your mental health at the same time, which is really important."

Student Alenne Adekayode says it's not uncommon for students to struggle with basic tasks such as getting out of bed due to mental health issues and feeling overwhelmed. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Parents or school staff can refer students to SchoolsPlus. Facilitators help connect students and their families with programs and services in their community and mental health clinicians are available to provide support and treatment. 

The programs at specific schools vary but they can include mentoring, homework clubs, community policing, youth groups and parenting support. 

Adekayode said she'd like to see staff stationed at her school full-time, not just on specific days. 

Joe Morrison, the principal at Citadel High, said one person is there regularly and others come to the school as needed. He said the SchoolsPlus staff work alongside administrators, teachers and guidance counsellors.  

"SchoolsPlus provides a link to all the supports that students may not know are available. It helps bridge those gaps so that students receive supports quicker, so they can get on with their education," he said. 

"Students are good at identifying themselves that they have a need and just not sure what to do, where to go with that need. SchoolsPlus is a great link to help support that."

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With files from Paul Palmeter

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