Supporting Teacher and Student Mental Wellness

Supporting Teacher and Student Mental Wellness

General Information:

On Thursday, April 16, 2020, Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation Professional Learning (STF PL), in partnership with CFS Saskatoon, offered a one hour online discussion panel to support Saskatchewan teachers in promoting student mental wellness through supportive educational practices during the COVID-19 crisis. This is a recording of that session.

  • Government of Saskatchewan This page provides information about mental health supports for Saskatchewan residents, including children and youth.  
  • Neurosequential Network Covid-19 Stress, Distress & Trauma Series: Dr. Bruce Perry discusses the emotional impact of Covid-19 and ways we can encourage positive mental wellness.  
  • Crisis Services Canada: A collection of Canadian resources to support mental health. Also provides access to Suicide prevention resources.  
  • Supporting Mental Health in Isolation: Indigenous Youth Encouraged to Find Strength Within: APTN journalist Brett Forester discusses the  the ways young First Nations, Inuit and Metis can maintain mental health and wellness as the country’s Covid-19 isolation period stretches into spring. 
  •  Anxiety Canada Portal is a registered charity that provides self-help resources on anxiety. Please see their MindShift App information below.  
  • Canadian Mental Health Association offers informational resources on mental health including specific information on Covid-19 and mental health disorders that can occur at any age. 
  • Kids Have Stress Too!  Developed by The Psychology Foundation of Canada, Kids Have Stress Too! is a broad-based primary prevention program that: helps parents, caregivers and educators understand childhood stress and how to provide youth with the tools to deal with stress effectively; and, provides parents, caregivers and communities with the knowledge, awareness and skills to help youth become healthier and more resilient through learning how to manage their stress. 
  • Institute of Child Psychology is a Canadian organization that was founded by two Registered Psychologists and Registered Play Therapists. They provide resources to educate parents and professionals on issues pertaining to children’s mental health, and to promote the psychological and emotional well-being of children and adolescents.  Their mission is to empower caregivers (i.e., parents, teachers, therapists, social workers, psychologists) by giving them pertinent insights, skills, and tools necessary to help children thrive.  

Teachers and Counsellors : 

For Students:

Information about Coronavirus/ COVID-19 

  • A Message For Canadian Children About These Tough Times from LEGO Justin TrudeauIn March 2020, during one of his daily press conferences, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a message for Canadian children about how they can do their part in the fight against COVID-19. Winnipeg dad, Tyler Walsh, has created a kid friendly LEGO version of this message.  
  • BrainPop has developed an online resource for students to learn about Coronavirus. Most appropriate for grades 5 and up.  
  • Just For Kids: A Comic Exploring The New Conronavirus Based on a radio story that NPR education reporter Cory Turner did. He asked some experts what kids might want to know about the new coronavirus and created a comic for kids. Also available in Chinese and Spanish for EAL students.  
  • Big Life Journal:  Find engaging resources to encourage resiliency and growth mindset. Get free growth mindset resources every Friday by signing up with this website or shop for resources for specific age range.  

Mental Health Support:  

  • Kids Help Phone is Canada’s only 24/7 national service offering bilingual (English and French) professional counselling, information and referrals and volunteer-led, text-based support to young people. Children and youth can connect via telephone (1-800-668-6868), text (686868) or website (kidshelpphone.ca)
Kids Help PhoneKids Help Phone (French)
  • SaskTel: Be Kind Online : The Ministry of Education and SaskTel partner on the Be Kind Online initiative to prevent bullying and cyber-bullying.  The Be Kind Online website: hosts the anonymous Report Bullying Saskatchewan Student Online Reporting Tool; provides resources to support students, teachers, families and community members; and, promotes the Be Kind Online Grants that encourage youth to make positive change in their schools and communities. 

School and Division Leadership:  

Mindfulness Apps and Resources:  

  • BellyBio Interactive Breathing is an app for your phone to encourage deep breathing and relaxation. It can be used for adults and children.  
  • Headspace is offering free meditations to support people during the Covid-19 pandemic. These selections are part of a larger collection that can be accessed through subscription.  
  • Calm: With a free account, you can access meditation and relaxation resources.  
  • Mindshift: Anxiety Canada has produced a free app to help with mindfulness and self-regulation skills.  
  • Smiling Mind: This free app developed in Australia provides resources for mindfulness and relaxation at home, at school and at work. They have also added an additional section in the Adult menu that pertains specifically to mental wellness during the Covid-10 emergency. 

Highlights from the Session:

What are you noticing in your school division/community regarding mental wellness since remote learning began?

  • Students (SD) – Having to transfer from in person group meetings to virtual, some students have been very receptive and opened to participating and some are not transitioning as well. We are needing to continue to be supportive in whatever capacity they may need.
  • Adults (SFS)- People are not reaching out as much as was anticipated. There are some consultations, as people are interested in talking about mental wellness or mental health, but as far as client contact it has been quit. They do however anticipate a real surge in the future on how to manage stress, anxiety, and the fear of the future.
  • Student Counselling Services – Students that were typically reaching out to counselling services, still are. Feeling there will be more of a surge once school starts up again. Surprisingly, there are more parents reaching out with requests for help for younger kids from grades 3 and up.

What might teachers be noticing and to be aware of when interacting with students regarding mental health?

  • Listening to what they are saying directly, and hearing those that talk about worry. Validating that yes, we are in uncertain times and with that comes a lot of worry, but that we are all in this together and to allow for the opened, honest conversation to happen.
  • Conversations that may spark a real sense of hopelessness that are totally overwhelmed. You can sense it in their voice, based on the words or even in the messaging that is coming from parents.
  • Watching for the youth who were typically engaged in the group, disappear- watching the engagement levels.

What kind of activities can a teacher encourage students to engage in that might ease their anxiety or to redirect their energy in positive ways?

  • Students just simply hearing their teacher’s voice and creating some normality within the online platform, i.e.: by creating some routine that would generally happen in the classroom.
  • To build some activities within the lessons that would encourage physical activity by going outside and appreciating nature.
  • Gratitude Practice – This is a great anti-anxiety technique to express what they are grateful for. Being that some are feeling a real sense of loss (loss of friends, teachers) this would be an opportunity to open up that space to focus and share what they are grateful for.
  • Gratitude Alphabet from A-Z.
  • Mindfulness Activity
  • Breathing activities (visual) to help regulate oneself. Draw shapes and have the student trace the shape in their mind from corner to corner.
  • Breathing Apps:  
  • BelloBio Interactive Breathing
  • Headspace (for older students)

  • Listening to music at certain frequencies known to calm the nervous system.
  • Hands Circle – Doing a massage on each side of the nail bed by giving a good nail rub all the way around and on the wrist on both hands. It is very calming and can reduce stress. Reducing arousal in the nervous system, enough to focus on an exam or get along with a sibling.
  • Service – What could we do creatively do to serve your community (thinking outside of oneself)?
  • Writing letters to seniors in a care home.
  • Helping parents with chores within the home, i.e. creating a math activity while making supper.

For Teachers – For their own mental health

  • Doing things in small dosages – A little addition if your going to add something to your day, small dosages; 5 minutes of mindfulness, 5 minutes alone time.
  • Adding some fun and laughter to your day – this helps to reduce stress hormones and increase happy endorphins. It does not mean this is not a serious time, or that you do not care, it means if we are at our best we can best serve and support those that are in our purview.
  • Having Grace for oneself – To allow yourself to be present in moments with your family, and to take time for a walk or mindfulness.
  • Self-Compassion – Teachers exude compassion for others, they need to allow it for themselves, knowing that although things are not perfect, nor will they ever be. You have compassion for your students and your family, have some compassion for yourself, as we are in a community right now that is seeking to be supportive and accepting.
  • Creating a schedule that will work for you!

What activities to avoid or be cautious of doing?

  • Activities that promote unnecessary competition, where conflict could arise. This is a time to build harmonious activities.
  • Avoiding curricula/content that could add additional pressure or strain, by creating a work around, reducing content that is really distressing and to save it for another time.
  • Not to focus on the do’s and don’ts too much and to have more of a growth mindset on this.
  • With social media having them self-identify/reflect on how it may be making them feel when they hear or see something. To then guide and foster a safe place where they can share those conversation of fears and concerns.
  • Better to answer questions than to ignore? Keep in mind the developmental level of the child and how much they can typically handle. The stance of assurance is always best, demonstrating a peace of oneself helps them to calm their own fears, even if you don’t have all the answers, it can really help a situation. With those children who have a relationship with anxiety it is important to find the most appropriate development way to share the facts, that best fits they developmental level or their anxiety may build.

Where can we find supports for those that may be needing more?

Final Messages…

  • To encourage teachers to know that they are doing an amazing job during this time, that they are making a difference in their kids’ lives, while teaching them about how to be resilient and adaptable.
  • We are all mentally healthier when we have a purpose. For both students and teachers, it is important to create a schedule for yourself in order to have an idea of what the next day may will look like.
  • Post -Traumatic Growth -. When focusing on the stress and overwhelm it is difficult to envision a positive, productive future. Even though this is an uncertain time, there is a lot to be said about our eventual growth and development. There is much to be said about how we will evolve and grow as a community and individuals following this time.
  • Tools In tool kits – We speak about within STF SPL, always wanting to have teachers leave with things that they can utilize and take back to their own classrooms. This is a bit different but there are some key tips in terms of their own mental health and how it relates to working with their students.