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Ontario College of Teachers Provides Advice about Supporting Students’ Mental Health

March 18 2019

The licensing body for Ontario teachers is issuing professional advice to its 235,000 members about supporting students with mental health concerns.

The spectrum of mental illness covers students from all backgrounds and across all grades.


  • an estimated 1.2 million children and youth are affected by mental illness, yet less than 20 per cent receive appropriate treatment1
  • seventy per cent of mental health problems have their onset during childhood or adolescence2
  • suicide accounts for almost a quarter of all deaths among 15-24-year-olds in Canada. It is the second leading cause of death among teens3.

“Teachers are often first to recognize changes in student behaviour,” says Ontario College of Teachers CEO and Registrar Michael Salvatori, OCT.  “Well-informed Ontario Certified Teachers can help to ensure that students with mental health concerns get the help they need.”

The advice encourages a multi-disciplinary team approach to caring for students with mental illness.

“Teachers don’t diagnose mental illness,” says Council Chair Nicole van Woudenberg, OCT. “But they can support students at risk by knowing what to look for, who to report to and where to find resources.”

In addition to highlighting current realities and professional obligations, the advisory provides characteristics to look for and 30 self-reflective questions Ontario Certified Teachers can ask themselves to assess their awareness of situations, protocols, and employer and community resources.

In focus groups last summer, teachers and parents identified the need for consistent advice on the topic. College’s Council approved the advisory to help Ontario teachers support students.

To promote discussion, the College will host presentations and panel discussions in Toronto, Ottawa, Kingston, Hamilton, Windsor, Sudbury, and Thunder Bay through March and April.

Panels will include local school board representatives, students, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre psychiatrist Dr. Amy Cheung, and experts from the mental health community.

See the advisory, backgrounder and video at oct-oeeo.ca/StudentMentalHealth.

The Ontario College of Teachers licenses, governs and regulates the profession of teaching in the public interest. It sets standards of practice and ethical standards, conducts disciplinary hearings and accredits teacher education programs affecting more than 235,000 members in publicly funded schools and institutions across Ontario. The College is Canada’s largest self-regulatory body.

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