North Island College announced programming for its annual Thrive Week in early February. (NEWS FILE PHOTO)

EDITORIAL: Don’t cut funding for youth mental health

Canada as a whole is underserving our youth in terms of mental health opportunities

A pair of students from Alberni District Secondary School brought to the public’s attention last week a critical cut that is going to happen to mental health services in schools.

The provincial government will be redirecting funding from in-school counselling services, delivered for the past 30 years by Port Alberni Family Guidance, to outreach services for high-risk and ‘street-entrenched’ students. This cut is due to take place at the end of March.

At the same time that the provincial government is looking at cutting in-school counselling, North Island College announced programming for its annual Thrive Week in early February—a chance to “check in” with post-secondary students and encourage positive mental health literacy.

It is the latest mental health-focused initiative at NIC, and works in concert with the Early Assist referral program that helps connect students with resources.

The college’s director of student affairs, Felicity Blaiklock, likens mental health issues in college students to the proverbial frog in boiling water: “you don’t know you’re in trouble until it gets bad,” she says. The college is intent on normalizing conversation about mental health so students know when and where to reach out for help.

This process should begin for youth in high school or even younger.

Canada as a whole is underserving our youth in terms of mental health opportunities. It is imperative that we keep whatever avenues open that we can, to catch mental health issues early.

Outreach programs are important—we get that. But so are in-school programs, because they make counselling accessible.

Teachers and school counsellors are the second line of defence for recognizing mental health issues in students after parents.

This is an issue that should be of concern to the population at large. Mental health issues that manifest in young adults grow exponentially more complex as they become adults—and more expensive to treat.

Where should the money come from? That’s the multi-million-dollar question.

— Alberni Valley News

mental health

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