Mental health and well-being is the foundation of student learning and schools play an important role in advancing and supporting children and youth in our communities. As outlined in Ontario’s Well-Being Strategy for Education, the goal of promoting well-being “is based on the principle that our education system needs to help students build the knowledge and skills associated with positive well-being so they can become healthy, active, and engaged citizens.”
As a part of our commitment to student mental health and well-being, the AMDSB Mental Health & Wellness Team has grown significantly over the last year, providing service to all elementary and secondary schools throughout Huron and Perth Counties. With additional Ministry funding, the AMDSB hired two social workers as Mental Health & Wellness Counsellor/ Coaches for the 2018-2019 school year. This service was added in addition to existing supports already available within the school setting to students.
Mental Health Lead Dr. Anne Robinson is a clinical psychologist with over 25 years’ experience in the field. Anne oversees the Mental Health & Wellness Team, provides clinical supervision to team members, supports schools with students in crises and liaises with community partners regarding service planning and larger community initiatives.
Mental Health & Wellness Coach/Counsellor Heather Hirdes is a Master of Social Work who was hired to provide therapeutic support to Stratford and area schools including both elementary and secondary students.
Mental Health & Wellness Coach/Counsellor Laura Plume is a Master of Social Work who was hired in a shared service role with the Huron Perth Catholic District School Board. Laura is providing support to both Central Huron Secondary School and St. Anne’s Catholic Secondary School in Clinton, Ontario. Both school boards, with financial support from the Tanner Steffler Foundation are gathering evidence-based research with a team led by Western and Queens University staff, to determine the most effective ways to provide school support to meet the mental health needs of youth in Huron County. We hope the research will help identify needs/required services within the community, as well.
Mental Health Counsellor Tara Merkley is a Child and Youth Counsellor. She is currently providing emotional support to students at both Goderich District Collegiate Institute and FE Madill Secondary School in Wingham.
In addition to these internal supports, the AMDSB has service contracts with community service providers to address student needs within the school environment. Our partnerships with Huron Perth Centre for Children and Youth, Choices for Change, Perth District Health Unit, Huron District Health Unit, LHIN (Local Health Integration Network), Huron Perth Helpline and Crisis Response Team, STAR Family Health Team, Stratford Family Health Team, Huron Hospice, and local Police forces continue to strive to meet the needs of the students within our community.
As part of the AMDSB Mental Health, Addictions and Well-Being Strategy, we are entering into the new year with a highlight on ‘thinking healthy’ – We encourage students, parents and community members to join us on our mental health focus throughout the month and share the well-being.