October 20, 2023
Elementary Mental Health Literacy Expands Across Alberta
Thanks to you, a pilot study of an innovative Elementary Mental Health Literacy Resource (EMHLR) is now underway in classrooms across Alberta. With engaging characters and developmentally appropriate content, the EMHLR engages students to:
- Build and maintain positive mental health
- Decrease stigma surrounding mental illness
- Increase understanding of common mental disorders
- Improve help-seeking skills
Building on feedback from previous field testing in BC and New Brunswick, the EMHLR has been reviewed and refined before roll-out to school districts across Alberta this past year. Those significant updates and additions included:
- Alignment with new Alberta Education health and wellness curriculum for Grades 4-6
- Development of classroom slides
- Creation of 30 additional activity sheets (for a total of 50)
- Provision of lesson plans for in-person, hybrid and online classroom delivery
- Creation of a classroom demonstration video
- Formatting of the resource into two integrated/coordinated guidebooks:
- EMHLR Core Concepts for Educators
- EMHLR Lesson Plans
With these adjustments made for the Alberta context, recruitment activities began in earnest via online presentations and in person meetings with school divisions across the province.
Currently, 12 Alberta school divisions are participating in the pilot engaging over 3500 students from rural, urban, public and catholic schools.
A password-protected website houses all classroom resources including lesson plans and supporting videos, sample letters for parents/caregivers and instructions for engaging in research.
“Stress Explained – Elementary Edition” is one of many age-appropriate resources created to equip educators and facilitate classroom discussions.
What Alberta students are saying:
“The way we are learning about mental health and mental illness helps us to realize it should be ok to talk about.”
“It helped me learn about all the mental disorders and helped me in everyday life.”
Partnering in the Community
The Mental Health Literacy team has developed a strong social media presence that has garnered local, national and international attention for their work and resources. The MHLiteracy YouTube channel has clocked over 500K views this year alone. These efforts are complemented by many more including the following:
- Prior to the opening of The Summit: Marian & Jim Sinneave Centre for Youth Resilience, the mental health literacy team met with The Summit staff to explore how the resources could be applied in their new setting.
- Team members introduced Mental Health Literacy resources to four CanREACH cohorts of primary care physicians, pediatricians and allied health professionals from across the province. (CanREACH is a 6-month mini-fellowship training program in pediatric mental health funded by community donations to the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation.)
- Expanding their scope beyond classrooms, the Mental Health Literacy team presented to a newly formed non-profit offering training to improve mental health literacy among coaches and parents of student athletes.
- Once again, the team participated in the City of Calgary Safety Fair where the “Stress Explained” video and worksheets were shared with Grade 5 students from across the city.
Evidence of Effectiveness
The Mental Health Literacy team recently published findings from the initial mental health literacy program implementation in Alberta between 2013 and 2016. The findings validate the preventative benefits achieved through mental health literacy approaches in schools. Read the study.
What Alberta students are saying:
“Watching the cartoons answered some questions I have.”
“It’s good for young people to learn that some people aren’t the same as you, and they have different minds.”