The College’s latest advisory helps OCTs assist students with mental heath concerns.
By Brian Jamieson
Photo: Donna Griffith
A provincewide thrust to support students with mental health concerns has been boosted by the College’s release of a new advisory aimed to help its members.
In November, College Council approved the Supporting Students’ Mental Health professional advisory to help Ontario Certified Teachers (OCTs) understand how to assist and support students with mental health concerns.
“Teachers are often the first to recognize changes in student behaviour,” says the College’s Deputy Registrar Joe Jamieson, OCT. “Are teachers diagnosticians? Emphatically, no. But can they help to support students with mental illness? Equally and emphatically, yes.”
The advisory is the result of months of research and consultation. It promotes mental health, reduces stigma and encourages a multidisciplinary team approach to caring for students. In the process it examines: current trends and statistics; the role of educators in the context of professional ethics and responsibilities; and legal considerations. It also provides a framework for self-reflection. The advice is predicated on the profession’s ethical standards, which are built on the pillars of caring, trust, integrity and respect.
The spectrum of mental illness covers students from all backgrounds and across all grades. The percentages of those affected are staggering.
Everyone goes through periods of self-doubt or has trouble focusing or interacting with others. Not all behaviours are indicative of mental disorders. But if they persist, they should never go unattended.
The duty to support students’ mental health stems from the profession’s ethical and practice standards along with statutes, regulations, school board and employer policies, professional workplace standards and common law.
OCTs also receive information from the Ministry of Education, education faculties, College-approved Additional Qualification courses and programs, federations and professional associations.
The advisory highlights what to look for and poses the following questions:
“Apply your professional judgment,” Jamieson says. “Being aware, knowing who to contact and what you can do goes a long way to supporting all students, not just those with mental health concerns.”
Refer to the enclosed hard copy of the professional advisory for more information on how to support your students’ mental health. You can also read it online at oct-oeeo.ca/mentalhealth. To access the College’s complete list of professional advisories, please visit oct-oeeo.ca/professionaladvisories.