'The Fourth R': Thunder Bay health unit launches school-based healthy relationships program
Federal government gives nearly $1M in funding for Youth Violence Prevention Program in northwestern Ontario
Learning how to apologize, how to stand up for yourself and 'no means no' will soon be on the agenda for grades seven to nine students in northwestern Ontario through a federally-funded Youth Violence Prevention Project.
The Thunder Bay District Health Unit (TBDHU) announced Wednesday it is receiving $995,000, over five years, from the Public Health Agency of Canada to implement a school-based, skills-focused, healthy relationship program aimed at preventing teen violence and related risk behaviours.
"The Fourth R is pretty exciting," said Marianne Stewart, the healthy relationships coordinator with the TBDHU project. "We all know the first three R's - reading, writing and arithmetic and the fourth R refers to relationships."
'Fourth R' targets behaviour leading to teen violence
Statistics from city police show intimate partner violence rates in Thunder Bay are among the highest in Canada, disproportionately affecting women and girls ages 12-24, especially Indigenous women and girls.
The Fourth R program, explained Stewart, is a harm-reduction strategy that gives students the knowledge, decision making abilities and skills to target unhealthy behaviours and attitudes, which contribute to teen violence and victimization.
The program is divided into four sections, which align with the Ontario health currriculum, including:
- Personal Safety & Injury Prevention
- Substance Use, Addictions and Related Behaviours
- Human Development and Sexual Health
- Healthy Eating
As well, a big component of the program is learning and practicing communication skills for real-life situations involving everything from consent to bullying.
'Building better humans'
"How to stand up for yourself without being aggressive but without also being passive, how to help yourself or your peer when you're in a risky situation, and then other soft skills like how to ask for help, how to make an apology, how to handle a breakup, so there's role modelling and there's actually hard practice for these skills built right into the program," said Stewart.
The goal of the project is to change attitudes and behaviours and hopefully prevent violence at all ages because "if we teach youth these skills now, these are things they will carry throughout their life. It will help them not only engage in healthy relationships in their teen years, it's going to help them as they become adults as well," said Stewart.
It's about "building better humans," she said.
Project partners include:
- Thunder Bay Crime Prevention Council
- Thunder Bay Drug Strategy
- Centre for Rural and Northern Health Research
- Lakehead District School Board
- Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board
- Conseil Scolaire de District Catholique des Aurores Boreales
- Northern Nishnawbe Education Council
- Matawa Learning Centre
- Superior Greenstone District School Board
- Superior North Catholic District School Board