Toronto Cohort Meeting Report - January 2020

By Marg Lise  |  January 27th

At our January meeting, Kayla Goodhoofd, school Social Worker at King’s Christian Collegiate in Oakville, joined us to speak about promoting mental health and well-being in Christian schools. We discussed our roles in supporting students and building staff capacity and self-care.

We were reminded to reflect Christ in our responses to students who are hurting, and remember our hope in Christ Jesus. We are enough in Christ. In our roles in supporting students we need to:

  • provide a safe and supportive environment;
  • reduce stigma and promote the health and well-being of students;
  • encourage a healthy and Christ-centered lifestyle;
  • build students’ social-emotional learning skills;
  • identify students in need and help them find resources; and,
  • foster meaningful staff/student relationships.

Relationships are key!

As schools, it’s important to demonstrate a commitment to student mental well-being. Have we created policies and protocols for supporting our most vulnerable students? Is there a team in place to be responsible for student and staff well-being? Do we have a designated Mental Health champion? Are we aware of, and connect with, local community agencies and resources.

We discussed school-wide wellness which includes things such as:

  • a wellness tool kit that has, in part, activities or suggestions to help students get back into a learning mindset;
  • chapels or assemblies focusing on wellbeing themes;
  • having a wellness club;
  • Bell Let’s Talk Day; 
  • World Mental Health Day; 
  • having an emotionally/physically safe space at school where students can go to self-regulate or relax;
  • prayer before lunch;
  • wireless Wednesday;
  • wellness Wednesday Tips;
  • Bench buddies; and,
  • stretching videos.

When reacting to a mental health crisis, it’s important to have basic ground rules in place:

  • create a safe place;
  • notice the signs objectively and nonjudgmentally;
  • listen and consult (LOVE – listen, open, validate, empathize); and,
  • know who to inform (parents/guardians, agencies, CAS).

Regarding staff and self, it’s important to have mental health first aid training, model practices to your staff, and support all staff reflecting Christ in our responses. We as leaders also need to recognize our own stressors, know what resources are available to us, and practice regular reflection.

Marg Lise is the Principal at Timothy Christian School in Etobicoke, and a member of the Toronto Cohort.