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Our Mental Health & Well-Being Strategy 2018-2021

At the centre of our Strategic Commitments is “Be Well” which calls the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) to honour the dignity of every person by caring for and supporting the well-being of all. This commitment begins with the fundamental belief that we are all created in the image and likeness of God, deserving of dignity and respect, of care for our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Our whole school approach to mental health resonates with the commitment to “Be Community”, ensuring that we create equitable and welcoming places for all. In our commitment to “Be Innovative”, our focus on Deep Learning and Social Emotional Learning invites us to further explore the mental health benefits of creating flexible learning environments, and continuing to develop partnerships with parents and community agencies, while infusing mental health and well-being into our curriculum and daily interactions.

A universal approach to serve all students

Using a tiered approach, we promote wellness for our students through universal approaches which are good for all students. Our Mental Health & Well-Being Strategy 2018-2021 helps us identify and support students who are at risk for developing mental health problems through various prevention and intervention initiatives. It also includes supporting the few students who require more intensive, individualized supports. All of the decisions made by our Board are filtered through our mental health strategy lens to ensure that we continue to promote positive, mentally healthy students and schools in an inclusive and aligned way.

Building our school staff capacity

Our school principals and educators are often the first level of support for students seeking help with improving their mental health. We provide a significant number of professional learning opportunities to our staff on topics such as anxiety, self-injury, suicide, social emotional learning, grief, self-care and well-being. Together, with Board psychologists, social workers, and guidance counsellors, we work to ensure that students are heard, and understood by those around them. Our Board’s prevention networks and protocols help staff support students with suicidal thoughts, non-suicidal self-injury behaviours, and other significant mental health challenges. Our staff are also provided with guidelines to know when and how to use these and other resources, and when to reach out for more help.

Making high school students self-aware

We proudly support our high schools student’s attendance to events such as the annual Youth Well-Being Summit hosted by Youth Net and the Mental Health Commission of Canada. These experiences equip our students with knowledge and ideas to take back to their peers. A number of our high schools have also been trained in the Sources of Strength program, which focuses on connectivity with one another, fostering peer-adult partnerships, and encourages help-seeking behaviour in today’s youth. We offer training in SafeTALK to senior students who are participating in leadership initiatives, such as certain Specialist High School Major (SHSM) programs. Thanks to these opportunities, our students are better informed about suicide prevention, substance abuse, violence, and how to individually assess and develop resilience in their own lives.

“Mental health is a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution.”

World Health Organization

2014 definition

AIM model OCSB video series

The link between mental health and student achievement has been clearly identified in the research literature. The OCSB’s Mental Health and Well-Being Strategy aims to increase awareness, build capacity, and promote evidence-based initiatives to support student mental health and well-being. As caring adults, we are all invested in helping our students to reach their full potential in all areas.

The OCSB is committed to providing resources and services that align with a tiered model of support that reflects the full continuum of services needed to ensure that students have access to the supports they require to have the best possible mental health.

The AIM model (Aligned and Integrated Model for mental well-being at school) developed by School Mental Health ASSIST structures the work that we do to support all students. This framework includes:

  • mental health promotion for all students;
  • preventive interventions for students at risk; and
  • more intensive supports for the most vulnerable students.

All children and youth benefit from developing the life skills that help them to navigate life’s challenges and opportunities. Schools have an important role to play in the teaching and developing of these skills to all students.

This video series will highlight everyday practices already being implemented in OCSB schools that are making a positive difference in the lives of our students and their families. The videos will highlight the following aspects of the AIM model: Welcome, Include, Understand, Promote, and Partner.



Keeping you connected with our “Be Well” Blog

Any parent with a concern for their child’s mental health (anxiety, depression, behaviour) should speak to their school principal. Your principal can help point you in the direction of the right resources, and can ensure that the child’s mental health needs are considered while they are at school. You can also consult our comprehensive list of resources to help you make informed decisions on who to talk to and guide your child. View resources.

Back-to-school-tips for parents and students

It’s that time of year again when we welcome back over 42,000 students into our OCSB classrooms. While there are many children who look forward to the start of school, others may be experiencing anxiety from those back-to-school butterflies. Keeping an open dialogue with your child will go a long way in helping your child feel great about their upcoming school year. Remember that your child’s teacher and school principal are also incredibly valuable resources in creating proactive solutions for your child’s success. The school-home partnership is key. We’ve assembled some tips to help you and your child prepare for the start of another school year.

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Supporting our children during stressful times

In stressful times, it is important for families and schools to work together to foster supportive relationships for our students. Caring adults need to help children and youth understand their emotional reactions, to help them engage in positive coping behaviours and to be supportive of each other. Tragic incidents can alter a person’s sense of security thus the importance of offering reassurance to our children and youth. It is also important for adults to understand that experiencing stress and adversity can contribute to internal symptoms such as anxiety, fear or depression and behaviours such as aggression, reactivity or withdrawal.

Children and youth may not understand the context of recent world events and communications they have heard or seen through various media. Below are a few tips that may assist you while helping children and youth to feel safe. Please reach out to your school at any time should you or your children struggle.

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Cannabis: What parents need to know

Browse this fact sheet on recreational cannabis. It provides information about legalization, risks, how to help your child, and where to get more information and support. Cannabis is legal in Canada as of October 17, 2018. This may lead to questions from your teen. Come join Ottawa Public Health and our community partners to learn more about cannabis, the new legislation, how to talk to your youth, as well as available resources and services. Visit

Opioids, signs of use, and how to talk to youth about drugs

View Ottawa Public Health’s comprehensive information about fentanyl and overdose protection at Then, download Ottawa Public Health’s Opioid Discussion Sheet for Parents, which includes information about preventing opioid use, signs of use, and how to talk to youth about drugs.

OECD Study on Social and Emotional Skills

The OCSB is proud to join the three other Ottawa School Boards as a participant in the international OECD Study on Social and Emotional Skills, investigating 10- and 15-year olds’ social-emotional development. During Spring 2018, Fall 2018, and Fall 2019, select schools in the ­­­­­­­District will participate in various phases of this three-part study. If you have any questions about our participation in this study or about the protection of student privacy, please contact Lauren Figueredo, Research Officer, at or 613-224-4455 Ext. 2341.