News / Halifax

'Start early:' PC leader asks for school mental health supports, curriculum in new bill

Jamie Baillie says gaps in the school system should be addressed with a new curriculum.

Jamie Baillie

Metro file

Jamie Baillie

A proposed bill would see in-school mental health supports and a new curriculum to help young people before they reach “a point of crisis,” the province's PC leader says.

Jamie Baillie introduced the Healthier Schools Act in Province House Tuesday afternoon, which would require all school boards to provide students with regular access to in-school health services provided by a qualified health professional, and have mental health training programs available to all secondary school teachers.  

The bill would also have school boards implement the Mental Health and High School Curriculum Guide created by Dr. Stan Kutcher and Yifeng Wei.

“Start early. Get to people before their mental illness develops or gets to a point of crisis,” Baillie said after tabling the bill.

“We need to do more.”

Baillie said the new curriculum would target Grades 9-12 since that’s when most students begin to show signs of mental illnesses, and they would benefit the most from learning about what’s happening to them and where to turn.

The health professionals would regularly visit schools and could include a variety of mental health nurses, psychologists, or other experts, Baillie said.

Although some schools do cover mental health in class and offer programming or in-house supports, Baillie said it should be the case in every single school and “in a much deeper way.”

Baillie said their estimates show it would take “less than $1 million” to roll out the bill’s changes, and the province would be able to start with current mental health professionals in the system then expand if needed.

“This saves future costs, future problems, future lives. It absolutely pays for itself, and it’s the right thing to do,” Baillie said.

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