Rocky View Schools (RVS) has implemented a number of initiatives to help students with mental health issues navigate through the education system.
The Enhanced Supports for Mental Health (ESMH) program is currently running in George McDougall High School, R.J. Hawkey Elementary School and Muriel Clayton Middle School.
“When we’re talking about inclusive supports in RVS, in particular for mental health, we’re talking about kind of graded hierarchy of intervention,” said division psychologist John Laing.
“So, when we look up from the bottom, about 89 per cent of our kids are going to respond to traditional intervention…. They’re going to respond well and grow through those kinds of interventions.”
He said the next level is targeted interventions
“…In our case, this could be clustering a group of kids who might have been assessed with obsessive-compulsive disorders, and we cluster them together to do some group interventions.”
According to Laing, the ESMH program serves students with extreme mental health issues. Laing said this group of students require more intensive intervention or therapy.
Laing and fellow ESMH team member Teresa Fowler presented information about the program to the RVS Board of Trustees at its regular meeting Feb. 8.
The program puts the student in the driver’s seat, according to Laing. The ESMH team goes out across the division and isn’t limited to the three schools where it is primarily based.
“The idea is not to bring the kids into some magical mental health program or some classroom where we’re doing something magical; it really is to take that support and inclusive model and drive it down into the school and into the classroom where these kids are to support kids, to support teachers…,” he said.
“We try to get out there as much as we can and it’s very consultative. I might do some counselling with the kids. I might do some family counselling. I might consult with the teacher about how we might tweak the environment a bit so the kid can respond. We do direct service with the kids, the families and the schools.”
Getting out into the community is part of what students in the program can experience. They volunteer at the Airdrie Food Bank, for instance, in the community kitchen program and also engage in equine therapy.
ESMH team member Teresa Fowler said she is hoping to develop a similar program with the Tails to Tell Animal Rescue Shelter in Crossfield to introduce animal therapy.
Students are referred to the program and Laing said the goal is to ultimately integrate them back into their designated school.