Both the Calgary Board of Education and Calgary Catholic School District have counseling and psychological services available for students
Calgary school boards want students, parents, and families to know that there are supports for them within their school systems when mental health and behavioural issues arise.
In recent months concerns have been raised by school boards across North America in response to the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, because of what some call a troubling depiction of mental health issues and suicide.
Some school boards have even banned the series from being talked about at school.
Last month, both the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) and Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) told Metro they hadn’t banned the series from being talked about at their schools and that they wanted students to feel comfortable speaking about things that are troubling them.
So, who can these kids, parent and families lean on?
The CBE said with learning as the central purpose, school environments need to address the academic, social and emotional needs of all their students.
Christine Davies, director of learning in the service unit (mental health, critical incidents, etc.), said within the CBE they have 29 counselling psychologists available for schools, as well as five additional counselling psychologists that support their specialized classes.
To access counselling psychologists, Davies said all CBE schools have a “school learning team.” She said if teachers or parents with concerns about a kid, teachers will meet with the team and decide what supports are needed for that child.
Davies said parents are always included in the process.
Each high school within the CBE also has guidance counsellors that are available to help students, staff and parents.
Davies said students can also make an appointment, or might be prompted by a staff member. She added that the CBE regularly refers parents to outside agencies when kids present with mental health concerns.
Karen Rhyhochuk, spokeswoman for CCSD, said all their senior and junior high schools have counsellors equipped to deal with sensitive topics such as suicide and suicide prevention.
“We don’t quantify how often they are utilized because their door is always open,” she said. “It’s an essential part of creating a safe environment.”
She said the process for getting a counsellor involved depends on circumstances. It may be a teacher who refers a student, or sometimes a student seeks out the counsellor.
Rhyhorchul said mental wellness has been a huge focus for CCSD over the last few years, and because of that they introduced the Go-To-Educator program, created by Stan Kutcher, a psychiatrist and lead expert in adolescent mental health.
She said each CCSD school has three Go-To-Educators.
“These educators can look for stressors such as depression, anxiety and suicide—and other sensitive issues,” she said.
Grade 9 health teachers are also trained in the Go-To model and it’s incorporated into the curriculum for students.
“They would look at proactive strategies for students to better cope with things like anxiety, depression and stress,” said Rhyhorchuk. “They’re taught things that enhance their resiliency.”