Mental health to be included in Nova Scotia school curriculum

How should we talk about suicide? Police chief's comments spark debate

The Nova Scotia government is moving forward with four new recommendations it says will improve mental health and addiction services.

"We know the need for mental health and addictions support is growing across the province and we need to find new ways to reach those who need help," said Nova Scotia Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine.

The recommendations were brought forward by the minister's advisory panel on innovation in mental health and addictions. Last June, the panel of eight experts began work to improve the system.

Recommendations include enhancing and better co-ordinating mental-health supports for children and youth through schools. The province will spend $4.4 million in new money by 2019-20 to add 51 new mental-health clinicians, facilitators and community outreach workers to a program that provides health and other services in schools. 

'Opportunity to lead the country'

Mental health and addictions will also be added to the school curriculum for grades Primary to 6, and for students in Grade 9 and Grade 12.

"Not to provide health interventions where the kids are doesn't make any sense to me," said Dr. Stan Kutcher, one of the co-chairs of the panel.

"This province actually has an opportunity to lead this country by saying the kids are in the schools, how can we work together with education to improve the outcome for kids where they already are."

More consistent mental health access

The province will also create a single web- and mobile-based platform. It will include a 24/7 live answer, toll-free phone line to provide consistent mental-health access provincewide.

"We want to make sure that no matter where you live, no matter what your age, no matter what your demographic, people are going to have access to consistent mental health and addictions information," said co-chair Starr Dobson, the CEO of the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia.

"I am confident these recommendations will have a positive impact on Nova Scotians."

All mental-health service providers must receive evidence-based suicide risk assessment and suicide risk management training.

Glavine said his department will work together with the Education Department, the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the IWK Health Centre to implement the recommendations.