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CBE incumbent in Wards 11 and 13 calls for system-wide mental health approach

Hrdlicka would like to see collaboration between the board, administration, schools, students and parents

Julie Hrdlicka said the CBE should develop a mental health framework similar to how they developed ones for math and transportation.

Jennifer Friesen / Metro Freelance

Julie Hrdlicka said the CBE should develop a mental health framework similar to how they developed ones for math and transportation.

Calgary Board of Education trustee Julie Hrdlicka, running for re-election in Wards 11 and 13, is calling for the development of a system-wide approach to better address student mental health.

According to Hrdlicka, the mental health of students is one of the biggest issues in education.

Hrdlicka said there's a pressing need to take action on this issue, and wants to see a major engagement process similar to the board efforts to address issues around math and transportation in the last two years.

“We are in dire need of supports throughout the system to help students, families and staff,” she said. “A system-wide strategy is essential to tackling the mental health crisis.

The trustee said the first step is to hear from school communities—especially students—on their thoughts on mental health and well-being.

Hrdlicka said during her research she discovered that, according to the Alberta Children’s Hospital since 2003, kids and youth accessing outpatient mental health services has increased by 380 per cent, while urgent and emergent hospital admissions have increased by 480 per cent.

The hospital’s data showed that an estimated 60,000 students in Calgary need mental health and psychiatric intervention each year.

Hrdlicka said anxiety and depression are enormous barriers to kids and their education.

“We live in a fast-paced world with a lot of information coming at us at once,” she said. “Take a step back and imagine you are a child trying to digest that information. There are so many choices, and it's so overwhelming.”

Hrdlicka said the CBE already holds a great partnership with Alberta Health Services, social services and other non-profits, but those supports are for children who are at the greatest risk.

Elsa Campos, managing director for Family Outreach and Resilience at Carya, said they know approximately one in five kids under the age of 19 have experienced a mental health issue.

Campos said children are influenced by their environments, and that in order to address mental health issues with kids, a collaborative partnership needs to be developed with schools that engages families in order to have a positive impact on a child with mental health concerns.

“Working together with a preventative and collaborative approach can make big changes to kids lives that will influence later life challenges,” she said.

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