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B.C. government helping expand stigma-free mental health programs

The B.C. government has provided $45,000 to the Stigma-Free Society to increase student mental health programs across the province.

B.C. officials said the funding was necessary because the COVID-19 pandemic and restart plan is affecting the mental health of young people.

“The pandemic has been hard on the mental health of many children, youth and their families,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “I am grateful to partner with Stigma-Free Society to expand the reach of mental health supports for young people at this critical time.”

The funds will help deliver mental health toolkits for grades 4-7 and 8-12. The online toolkits offer mental wellness lessons plans that follow B.C. curriculum.

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“Our focus is on the social and emotional well-being of students as we return to a near-normal school year in September,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education. “We know the pandemic has impacted students in different ways.”

“That’s why it is important to offer a variety of supports in schools, including the Stigma-Free toolkit and virtual program, which align with the Mental Health in Schools Strategy, allowing us to effectively connect with students,” added Whiteside.

Provincial officials said the toolkits are engaging for youth as they deliver the plans through comic books and illustrated animations.

So far 55,000 students and teachers have been a part of a Stigma-Free Program presentation and have access to the online toolkit.

The Stigma-Free Society’s goal is to reach another 10,000 students in the next 18 months while focusing on rural communities.

“Youth are often ill-equipped to face mental health challenges and the stigma or discrimination that is associated with conditions such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism spectrum disorder,” said Andrea Paquette, president, Stigma-Free Society.

“In this time of intersecting societal crises, we are seeing great need around student mental health, and a unique opportunity to invest in mental health supports for children, youth and teachers in communities across British Columbia through digital outreach,” added Paquette.

The Stigma-Free Society currently has six different programs and plans to expand to as many school districts across B.C. as possible.

Schools wanting access to the toolkits can contact the society and arrange a presentation.

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