Government will take immediate action to enhance mental health services and support for young people in Cape Breton.
Today, Aug. 2, Dr. Stan Kutcher, an expert in adolescent mental health, released his recommendations on actions government can take to improve the situation on the island.
In late June, at the request of Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey and Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Zach Churchill, Dr. Kutcher spent three days in the region meeting with families, school officials and the community, to discuss how to better address the island’s youth mental health concerns.
“The mental health needs of youth and adolescents have changed dramatically in the last decade, and communities everywhere are challenged to keep up,” said Dr. Kutcher. “Government can make some key investments today to bolster the work already being done, and to ensure a stronger, more stable, and supportive school community, when students return to the classroom in September.”
Dr. Kutcher’s work focused on identifying gaps in mental health support for young people in Cape Breton, and identifying ways to bridge those gaps through existing and new initiatives.
“I thank Dr. Kutcher for responding to our call in June, and for his insight and recommendations presented today,” said Mr. Delorey. “I know there is nothing we can say to lessen the loss felt by the Cape Breton community, but we are acting now on Dr. Kutcher’s recommendations to address issues and enhance mental health services and support to our youth.”
Government will begin with:
— enhancing support for the CaperBase initiative, which provides resources, mentoring and programming focused on building resilience and adaptive capacity among youth
— ensuring the provincewide mental health crisis line has more staff to respond to higher numbers of calls
— providing funding for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School board to hire two more guidance counsellors and one social worker.
“I want to thank Dr. Kutcher, the school board, teachers and all our partners in the community for working together to strengthen mental health supports for our children,” said Mr. Churchill.
Dr. Kutcher also recommended the following measures:
— create a single structure to address all school-based mental health policies, plans, oversight and evaluation with direct reporting to the ministers of Health and Wellness and Education and Early Childhood Development
— use nationally recognized expert input to update and revise the provincial suicide prevention framework
— revise the School Code of Conduct Policy to clarify the use of evidence-based interventions related to student conflict, bully and cyberbullying
— work with mental health experts to create an approved list of social-emotional learning and mental-health programs for all grades
— develop a provincial policy that addresses the responsible use of students’ personal communication devices on school grounds.
A copy of Dr. Kutcher’s recommendations is available under reports at novascotia.ca/dhw.