While British Columbians were already experiencing heightened anxieties and mental-health issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous parents, teachers, students, and many others have expressed confusion, doubt, or anxieties about B.C. schools restarting.
Those concerns have manifested in debates about the provincial restart plan for the 2020-21 academic year, including the B.C. Teachers Federation pressing Education Minister Rob Fleming for more safety measures. Even provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry didn’t escape criticism after her appearance in a government back-to-school ad became a flashpoint for tensions.
With concerns mounting as students are set to return on September 10, the B.C. government announced today (September 2) additional funding for mental-health resources in the school system.
B.C. will provide $2 million for school-based wellness programs and supports for students, families, and educators that will add to the $8.8-million in funding over three years (announced last September).
Accordingly, school districts and independent school authorities will receive $3.75 million for this coming school year. Each school district will determine how the funds are used and can include enhancing staff training, student workshops, family information sessions, or developing new resource materials for educators and families.
Mental-health programs will expand to address staff wellbeing as well as a focus on trauma-informed practices.
B.C. has invested $6 million in mental-health resources since the start of the pandemic, including programs for students such as the free and virtual WE Well-Being Program for elementary and secondary school students; and the Everyday Anxiety Strategies for Educators (EASE) at Home program for elementary school students.
Meanwhile, free or low-cost counselling services and programs—including Here2Talk (which connects post-secondary students to mental-health support), BounceBack, Living Life to the Full, and Foundry’s services—are available online, by video, or by phone.
To find a child or youth walk-in mental-health intake clinic, visit this B.C. government webpage.