Mental Health and Well-Being Snapshot: December 2022
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Well-being Over the Holidays
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Holidays can be a wonderful time to connect with others, eat good food, and give or receive gifts and kind gestures. However, sometimes the expectations of the holidays (our own or other people's) can add stress to our plate as well. It is also important to acknowledge that the winter break is not a time of celebration for everyone, and not everyone observing winter holidays such as Christmas and Hanukkah will celebrate them in the same way. CMHA BC notes that "52% of Canadians report feelings of anxiety, depression and isolation during the holiday season." Further, the change in routines can interrupt healthy habits we've established, and supports that have typically been around for us during the school year may not be reachable over the long break

So, as we head towards a couple of weeks away from school, this edition of the snapshot discusses ways to take care of ourselves and others over the holidays, and aims to ensure that students and parents are aware of the resources that are out there beyond the school that can support mental health concerns, or be contacted in the event of a mental health crisis.
Taking care of ourselves and others over the break

Balance and Boundaries

There is a lot of great advice out there about ways to take care of ourselves over the holidays. And a lot of that advice can be summarized with a couple of B words: Balance and Boundaries. Below are some suggestions taken from great articles by CMHA BC, BCSS, and Kelty Mental Health:

  • Prethink and discuss with your loved ones what you will and won't commit to before those situations arise - what are shared expectations around gifts? Who will you be spending time with - who would it not be helpful to spend time with? These kinds of discussions will help avoid disappointment or stress that could have been avoided
  • Find ways to maintain some structure and ensure everyone's wishlist of activities can be addressed, but also build in "down time."
  • Don't neglect physical health and relaxation. The double-whammy of busy calendars and a change in routine can mean that our regular physical activity or sleep routines get ignored. It may take some effort to ensure they are kept in the picture, but your body and brain will appreciate it!
  • Establish a holiday support - if your school or community counsellor has been your main support, but they're heading off on holidays, make sure you have a game plan in place with other people you can lean on (check below if you need some ideas!).

For more ideas, check out articles linked above.
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Paying attention to digital well-being

Digital devices can help build connection with friends and family - whether around a movie, gaming together, or as a way to communicate and share with each other. However, sometimes during long periods of unstructured time such as winter break, the balance can shift toward dependence on technology. This can lead to tension between parents and children over what's allowed and what's not in terms of screen time, not to mention the detrimental impacts on mood or other measures of well-being.

Research has demonstrated that a sound approach to navigating screen time at home is to focus on "quality over quantity." Dr. Shimi Kang uses a food analogy and suggests we want to have a "plate" in which most of the content is healthy tech use (creating, connecting, growth/learning, self-care), minimize the amount of "junk" tech such as mindless scrolling, and scrap "toxic" tech such as media that elicits FOMO. Framing family screen use agreements in this way is one helpful strategy we outlined in our snapshot from last December. Click the link to that snapshot to revisit this and other learning, strategies, and resources about technology.

A kindness calendar to get in the spirit of the season

Advent calendars have traditionally been used to mark the days for those celebrating Christmas. For many children, this has become a part of their holiday tradition. This holiday, why not add to the countdown fun in your classroom or in your home with a gesture of kindness each day? Research has demonstrated that kindness has positive impacts on the giver as well as the recipient, in terms of stress levels, mood, empathy development, and self-esteem.

There are a ton of examples out there, but it's also an easy enough project to make on your own, or collaboratively with your class or family. Here is one example that we found that can be used as a whole calendar or for individual days.
Community supports for mental health
If you or your child is struggling with mental health, it can be helpful to have other people in your corner. Below are a few ideas about local supports, some of whom may be available to support if needs arise over the break from school.

Child and Youth Mental Health

The Ministry of Children and Family Development's Child and Youth Mental Health (CYMH) teams provide a range of mental health assessment and treatment options for children/youth and their families at no cost. Clinics are staffed by mental health clinicians, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Services are voluntary and are designed to support children and youth who experience significant difficulties related to their thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

Common concerns include:
Feelings of anxiety
Low or cycling moods
Behaviour difficulties
Suicidal thoughts and behaviour

Local clinics:
CYMH Saanich - 250-952-5073
CYMH Indigenous South Vancouver Island - 250-952-4073

Youth Clinics

These two local youth clinics offer mental health and medical care, and can include doctors and other supportive professionals within the same building such as counsellors or youth workers.

Foundry Victoria offers a range of wellness services for young people ages 12-24, including physical and mental health care, substance use supports, social services and peer support. Foundry is located in downtown Victoria and operates 5 days a week. They also offer a virtual service that can connect youth with counselling, peer support, and primary care.

The Peninsula Youth Clinic offers a similar model on a smaller scale. The clinic is open from 5:30-7:30PM on Thursday nights, and operates out of the Shoreline Medical Clinic in Sidney.


While calling 9-1-1 in an emergency is always important, there is another resource out there that can help in the event of a mental health crisis. 

The Integrated Mobile Crisis Response Team serves individuals of all ages and families who are experiencing immediate concerns/crisis related to mental health and addictions issues. From their website: “Child and youth mental health clinicians work alongside adult mental health clinicians, social workers, nurses and plain-clothes police officers to provide a rapid, mobile, community-based response to children, youth and families in crisis.”

This team approach can mean that a person in crisis is responded to in an appropriate way, with less risk of escalating the situation. The team also has the benefit of being able to do an assessment on the person’s mental health, and can refer along to other appropriate organizations if that is deemed necessary.

To contact them, call the Vancouver Island Crisis Line at 1-888-494-3888
Crisis lines (talk and text)
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With schools closed for two weeks over the winter holiday, and many service providers taking breaks during that time as well, it can make a crisis even harder to manage. Thankfully, there are resources that are available to help. There are a number of phone and text crisis lines available to youth and families. We cover some of them below:

24-Hour Vancouver Island Crisis Line
The Vancouver Island Crisis Line provides a supportive listening ear for people in emotional distress and connection to emergency mental health services when needed. This line is also a pathway to access the IMCRT service mentioned above.

YouthSpace (6PM-12AM) is an online crisis and emotional support chat service. Trained volunteers listen without judgement, and keep chats confidential and anonymous.
Click here to access online chat
Or, text 778 783 0177

24-Hour KUU-US Line
The KUU-US Crisis and support line supports Indigenous people throughout BC. Risk assessment, mediation, and de-escalation can be part of that support, as well as connection with local community agencies and responders.

BC Crisis Centre (Phone and chat lines)
The BC Crisis Centre offers a range of services, from 24 hour phone lines for crisis and mental health support, to online chat for youth and adults (noon to 1AM). Review all of their services and access addition numbers from their website.

Supporting after a crisis

A mental health crisis can lead to intervention from multiple specialists and professionals in a hospital setting. While those interventions are usually very helpful, ultimately after that hospital stay, the parents and caregivers will be the ones trying to make the care/safety plan work. This can be daunting and frustrating, and sometimes parents are not feeling well-equipped to provide ongoing support after a mental health crisis. 

To meet this need, FamilySmart has put together a series of free workshops, offered each month, called "Help for the Hard Times." These workshops equip caregivers to support a safety plan, take care of themselves, and find further resources. Learn more and register here.
Mental health myths
Our understanding about child and youth mental health and well-being has evolved a lot over the last few decades, and continues to shift as the influences on children and youth rapidly change. This is why we're offering this recurring focus on a new learning that counters previous assumptions some of us may have about this topic in this "mental health and well-being myths" section. 

Children with ADHD can't focus

A common misconception about ADHD is that it results in complete inability to focus. This is not true. As this video from BC Children's Hospital points out, a more accurate description of the disorder could be Attention Regulation Hyperactivity Disorder. Children with ADHD can focus very well, and can even display hyper-focus, when the conditions are right. But part of the challenge can be when children are asked to shift from an interesting activity where that hyper-focus is engaged, into something less appealing. Another difficulty that can occur is if a more interesting stimulus interferes with a learning task, the focus can shift quickly away from the lesson.

The idea that children with ADHD can't focus is one example of a number of myths that exist about ADHD. FamilySmart is offering an opportunity to learn more about this topic and discuss with other parents as part of their "In the Know" series. Come together with other families to watch this video presentation by Dr. Duncan, who will dispel the many myths surrounding ADHD by presenting up to date scientific facts about cause, prevalence, diagnosis and treatment. And stay for a facilitated discussion by a FamilySmart Parent Peer Support Worker.

December 14th, 12:00pm - 1:30pm PST
December 15th, 6:30pm - 8:00pm PST
December 20th, 5:00pm - 6:30pm PST

Click here for more info and to register.




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Wishing everyone a healthy and happy holiday!

As we head toward the winter break, we're hoping that all students, families, and staff enjoy a break from school that is filled with joy and supports well-being.

Until the next snapshot comes out, remember that Saanich School District's Mental Wellness Hub is another place where learning opportunities and resources such as the ones above are collected. We try to update the site regularly, so please check back often. Happy holidays!