Mental Health and Well-Being Snapshot: March 2023
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Mental Health Literacy
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In previous snapshots we have talked about the importance of reducing stigma as a way to improve positive outcomes and access to support for mental health and substance use concerns. One key way we can reduce stigma around mental health is to increase literacy and understanding of this topic. While we have come a long way in this regard in Canadian society, stigma and misunderstanding around certain mental health topics still remains an issue, and this may create barriers to accessing or offering appropriate support. This snapshot will take a look at some of the pillars of mental health literacy - positive mental health, understanding of specific disorders, stigma reduction, and ways to access support.




Maintaining positive mental health

Lifestyle and parenting tips to promote positive mental health

This short video from the Canadian Pediatric Society outlines some considerations for parents and caregivers to help promote positive mental health in children and youth. Some of the recommendations include:

  • Consistent routines and schedules
  • Adequate time for play, nutrition, and sleep
  • Opportunities to connect and feel heard
  • Clear expectations and healthy limits
  • Positive and healthy family interactions
  • Encourage self-expression

Click the link to watch the full video.

Understanding Stress

Adding to the information presented above - that some distress in life is normal - the following videos expand on the idea of healthy stress.

In moderate amounts, stress can be helpful, and is actually our body's way of preparing for performance. In addition, avoiding stressors can often mean that our stress response is now higher the next time we encounter that situation. Understanding these facts and more about stress, its purpose, and how to cope with stress are all key learning for mental health literacy. Click the links below to watch the videos and learn more:

Video: Understanding the Stress Response
Video: Stress Explained - Elementary Edition
Understanding specific disorders
One key way to increase mental health literacy is to enhance our understanding of common mental health disorders. For children and youth, anxiety, ADHD, and depression are three of the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorders. We will focus our attention on these three for this snapshot, highlighting information from reputable sources, but look for links to information on other mental health disorders below.  


Feeling anxious, like feeling stressed, can be a normal human response, and even help us prepare well for challenging scenarios. An anxiety disorder is when that anxiety, that fear alarm in our nervous system, is occurring persistently and interfering with day-to-day tasks. Kelty Mental Health is an excellent and reputable source for information on many mental health disorders, and they describe a key mechanism of anxiety, the flight-fight-freeze response:

When someone is threatened or in actual danger, their body has as an alarm system to keep them from harm. It triggers your “flight-fight-freeze” response that helps prepare the body to defend itself. It might have you run from the situation ("flight"), yell or fight back ("fight") or play dead or stay very still ("freeze").

In the absence of immediate danger, our body's 'fight-flight-freeze' response can still get triggered. For example, for some people having to get up and speak in front of a group of people can trigger the body's alarm system in the same way as if there were a real danger.

Watch the videos below to learn more about the fight-flight-freeze response:

Fight Flight Freeze: Anxiety Explained for Kids
Fight Flight Freeze: Anxiety Explained for Teens

Further learning and resources about anxiety

Website - Anxiety Canada - Learning modules, printable resources, videos, and links to further support.

Podcast - Tackling Anxiety: Practical Strategies for Children and Youth

Webinar SeriesSchool Anxiety & Attendance Challenges for Parents and Caregivers

App - Mindshift CBT - This app includes calming strategies, tracking tools, and other CBT-based strategies to manage anxiety


Kelty Mental Health describes ADHD as follows:

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a common brain-based disorder in children and youth. It affects the way people act and interact with the world around them.

Children and youth with ADHD have challenges with regulating their attention (having too much or too little focus).

Many children and youth with ADHD also struggle with restlessness and impulsivity (having impulsive actions, thoughts, or feelings).

A child or youth with inattentive symptoms may:

have a hard time staying focused on tasks they find boring
make unintentional mistakes at school often
have a hard time following directions and instructions
have difficulty organizing their thoughts or belongings
dislike tasks where they have to be focused for a longer time
appear forgetful

A child or youth with hyperactive/impulsive symptoms may:

have problems sitting still
look very restless or fidget often
have a hard time playing quietly
seem to be always 'on the go'
interrupt tasks or conversations
have a hard time waiting for their turn

Treatment for ADHD usually includes some combination of:

Learning about ADHD; Skills training; Changes at home; Changes at school; Medication; Healthy living

Click the link to the right for more information, or explore the resources below for further learning on ADHD.

Further learning and resources about ADHD

Rolling with ADHD - This series of videos and learning resources is tailored to parents and educators hoping to understand ADHD and helpful strategies.

ADHD Webinar Series from Kelty Mental Health.

If you only watch one video on ADHD, watch this one!


Depression can often begin during the ages of 15-30, but it can also affect younger teens and children. Kelty Mental Health notes that Children with depression may show some of the following signs:

have problems with thinking, concentrating or making decisions
have negative thoughts about most things
think life is not worth living
have trouble seeing their own positive qualities and be too critical of their achievements
blame themselves for events that are not their fault

feel sad, unhappy or have low mood most of the time
feel angry or irritated most of the time
feel hopeless and think that things will not get better
feel like a disappointment or burden to others
lose interest or enjoyment in activities
constantly feel numb, bored or empty
be unhappy even when good things happen

often cry or be tearful
be absent from school often or not perform as well
have a major change in eating or sleeping patterns
have a major change in hygiene or appearance
argue or start fights more often
withdraw from family and friends
take part in risky behaviours
use substances or self-injury to try to feel better

If you are observing some of these signs in yourself or in your child, speak to a mental health professional to explore your concerns. The Accessing Support section below provides some ideas about who to turn to.


Further learning and resources about depression

Dealing with Depression - This online resource provides some important understanding of depression, and some helpful CBT-based skills to help manage depression.

Helping your Child or Youth with Depression - This PDF guide provides useful learning and strategies for parents.

BounceBack - a free skill-building program to help adults and youth 13+ manage low mood, mild to moderate depression, anxiety, stress or worry. Delivered online or over the phone with a coach.

Reducing stigma




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Language matters: The mental health pyramid

This short video outlines a clear way to understand the difference between different mental health states, and explains that everyone falls somewhere on the pyramid depending on what's going on in their life or diagnoses that might apply.

One takeaway is that some distress in our week is a pretty normal thing, and that most people will experience a more pronounced "mental health problem" at some point in their lives. But a clinically diagnosed mental health disorder or mental illness is a much more specific term that is distinct from those other mental health states.

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Online resource: Mental Health Literacy

The visual above is taken from a resource produced by With information about specific disorders, strategies for parents and friends, and links to additional resources, this website is an excellent starting point for anyone hoping to grow their mental health literacy. 

The Mental Health Literacy curriculum has been used in many grade 8, 9, and 10 classes, so language and resources on this site will be familiar to those students.
Accessing Support
Understanding who we can turn to for support, what the differences are between different kinds of support, and how to access that help, are all key parts of mental health literacy. Here are a few ideas about people, organizations, or resources you could turn to.

At School

School counsellors and youth and family counsellors are great resources for anything mental health-related at school, but classroom teachers or any trusted staff member can be excellent supports as well for students if they are struggling, and can bring others into the conversation if further help is needed. If your child has an IEP, their case manager would be a good first point of contact too. Schools can often also provide guidance for parents trying to navigate the mental health system.

In Community

There are a number of free and accessible services in the Saanich and Greater Victoria areas. Child and Youth Mental Health clinics are free services to support children, youth and families with mental health concerns. A similar service, focused on substance use concerns, is Discovery Youth and Family Services. Youth Clinics, such as the Peninsula Youth Clinic or Foundry are also excellent first stops on a pathway to care and support for mental health. Exploring mental health with your family doctor is also a good option.


The sheer amount of content online about mental health can be overwhelming, and, if we're not careful, misleading. With so much information out there, it is important to find sources that are credible. Kelty Mental Health is one such resource, with information available for parents, teachers, and youth in a variety of formats. Foundry also has a great website with lots of helpful information, and their Foundry virtual service can connect youth to appropriate support. CMHA is another reputable source, and the Mental Health Literacy website mentioned above is also a good starting point.
More information

Mental Health in Schools Strategy

The Mental Health in Schools Strategy provides a vision and pathway for mental health promotion in the BC K-12 education system.

The strategy takes a system-wide approach to mental health promotion, with a focus on three main elements:

Compassionate Systems Leadership
Capacity Building
Mental Health in the Classroom

There is a lot in this strategy, but a key quote stands out:

Educators are not mental health professionals, nor should they be. Their role is to have open conversations with students about mental wellbeing, provide information about mental health and connect students to resources when they need them.

This highlights that educators at any level and in any subject can have a positive impact on student mental health. For educators who are hesitant to broach the subject of mental health with their students, this is a reassuring and empowering message, and for those already engaged in this work it is an affirming acknowledgement that discussions about mental health are time well-spent.

And this message aligns with the local Strategic Plan for Saanich schools as well: Mental Health and Wellness is one of four strategic priorities in the plan. The plan also highlights that this priority can be supported by teaching social-emotional skills, capacity-building and learning around mental health literacy and trauma-informed approaches, and increasing staff and community awareness and engagement to reduce stigma.

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Professional development opportunities for teachers

Looking for ways to deepen your own understanding of mental health or expand the literacy of your students? Explore the offerings from below. These two FREE online courses are worthwhile professional development about the topic of mental health.

Teach Mental Health Literacy

In this course, educators will learn how to apply this classroom-ready, web-based, modular mental health curriculum resource as well as develop their own mental health literacy. Educators can then use this resource designed to be delivered to regular classrooms to successfully address mental health-related curriculum outcomes designed to be delivered by classroom teachers to students aged 12 to 19.

Learn Mental Health Literacy

This course is designed for teachers or administrators who wish to build their own mental health literacy.

Developed by education and mental health professionals, this seven module (8 to 10 hours) course will provide you with a foundation of mental health literacy, including effective strategies to use in your educational settings and in your own life.


SD63's Wellness Hub

A lot of the organizations mentioned here are represented on our district wellness hub, which also includes learning and connection opportunities as they arise throughout the school year. Check back often!