Regardless of the individual session or speaker, the essential message remained the same:
The more connected a child feels to their school, the better they do.In addition to larger scale provincial and district initiatives and programs, it became clear that in many cases it's the "little things" that can also make a significant difference in the life of a child. As essential as these larger initiatives are, it's the individual, personal relationships and connections that are formed with teachers, administrators, coaches, counsellors, janitorial and support staff that provide our most vulnerable students with the guidance, stability and support needed to overcome some of the obstacles that can be associated with mental illness. The culmination of numerous positive interactions with a caring adult can sometimes be far more impactful than a more formal program or workshop. As well, symposium presenters emphasized the need to foster resiliency and mental health in youth by taking an "asset based" approach that focuses on inner strengths rather than on apparent deficiencies.
So while we have a responsibility to provide focussed, targeted programs to support children and youth who are struggling with mental health issues, educators can also provide invaluable support by consciously nurturing the numerous impactful relationships that are so essential in a vibrant and welcoming school community.