Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Teach Mental Health: StFX involved in launching new mental health literacy course for pre-service and practicing teachers

September 13th, 2018
Dr. Chris Gilham

A comprehensive, free, online course that helps educators—both teachers and B.Ed. students—understand and recognize mental illness while decreasing stigma in classrooms is now available—to great reviews.

The self-directed course, TeachMentalHealth.org, was developed through a five-year partnership between education faculties at St. Francis Xavier University, Western University and the University of British Columbia, and TeenMentalHealth.Org, a non-profit organization led by mental health expert Dr. Stan Kutcher. It’s intended to help pre-service and practicing teachers develop and expand their mental health literacy.

Since its August 15th launch, the course has already attracted over 1,000 registrants, and some school boards have made it mandatory professional development for administration staff.

“It’s been well received,” says StFX education professor and team member Dr. Chris Gilham.

Dr. Gilham says it’s not just that a lot of people have signed up for the course, it’s the potential the course has to work for people and to make a difference that is exciting.

He says the course was developed to address two main needs.

After completing a national scan of over 30 educational institutions and organizations across Canada, the team found there was almost nothing available for teachers related to mental health literacy training.

There was also the felt sense of teachers that they don’t have the knowledge base to deal with the mental health issues they’re seeing in their students.

The teenage years are a critical time for mental health issues. The major onset of mental illness happens between the ages of 13 and 25, and one in five youth will have a mental illness before the age of 25, Dr. Gilham says.

This course reinforces for teachers that they are well positioned to notice signs and symptoms and be able to access school support teams to have early intervention, which helps with finding proper, effective treatment, he says.

The course, he adds, is meant to help educators and students maintain and optimize good mental health, to know when they need to ask for support, and how to identify resources and supports before things get difficult for people to take care of themselves or others.

Dr. Gilham says the team plans to collect data to see how the course is working, and will tweak and revise according to feedback.

Although originally designed for B.Ed. students and teachers, Dr. Gilham says the course would also be useful for anyone interested in mental health literacy.

It’s free. Interested people can register at any time, they can complete the course at the pace they want, and they can choose to receive a certificate of completion when finished.

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