The COVID-19 pandemic unleashed a series of consequences, including school closures, increased family responsibilities regarding education, and the erosion of protective factors that once safeguarded the well-being of children and youth. Even before the pandemic, there was a noticeable increase in mental health challenges among this demographic. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we rally behind this population and advocate for a comprehensive national strategy. Our aim should be to ensure that no child is left behind, with a special focus on bolstering school health and implementing interventions designed to nurture social and emotional skills.
Approximately 5.7 million children and youth in elementary and secondary schools in Canada experienced the disruptive effects of school closures, resulting in immediate repercussions to their growth and development (Statistics Canada, 2021). Fast-forwarding to 2023, the significance of school-based mental health support cannot be understated. It is now well-established that poor mental health support can profoundly impact educational outcomes. To address this, the collaboration of School Public Health Nurses (PHN) and School Psychologists (SP) is paramount in promoting mental health, raising awareness, providing support, and proactively identifying at-risk students. Together, they can offer preventative and early intervention services, ensuring that no student is left without necessary support for their well-being and academic success.
The unique skills that each of these professions provides can create comprehensive and effective approaches in addressing the mental health needs of students. In this blog, we will highlight ways in which each discipline can collaborate and the benefits of their role in promoting health and preventing illness through education, assessment, and interventions.
Public health nurses can conduct health assessments, screenings, and provide health education to students, whereas school psychologists can offer specialized assessments and treatment for emotional and psychological issues impacting the students. Additionally, students can benefit from counseling and assessments, and learning and behavior issues can be detected, allowing for early intervention and positive outcomes.
Collaboration for Mental Health Support offers numerous benefits:
Education and Awareness: Together, they can provide valuable information not only to the students but also to the teachers and parents related to mental health, self-care, and overall well-being. They can offer information sessions, workshops, and group sessions that raise awareness about healthy mental health, early detection, appropriate intervention, and when to seek help.
Comprehensive Holistic Approach: A comprehensive assessment of emotional and behavioral (psychological) aspects, combined with physiological assessments by PHNs, ensures that no aspect of a student's well-being is overlooked.
Early Intervention: Early intervention is key in addressing mental health concerns effectively. By working together, they can identify at-risk students and develop effective strategies for success while providing guidance and counseling.
Supportive Programs: Collaboratively, PHNs and SPs can develop programs that foster health promotion, a supportive and nurturing school environment, including time management, prioritization, peer support initiatives, and mental health awareness campaigns.
Crisis Response: In times of crisis, a joint response can be highly beneficial, leveraging the expertise of both professions.