High Level is the site of one of thirty-seven Mental Health Capacity Building Projects funded by Alberta Health Services. The Student Wellness Project is a collaborative venture between the Fort Vermilion School Division, Alberta Education, and Alberta Health Services among other local partners. The mission of Mental Health Capacity Building (MHCB) is to promote positive mental health in children, youth, families and individuals in the community who interact with children and youth. The MHCB initiative is based on the belief that mental and emotional wellbeing can be developed, nurtured and supported through promotion and prevention efforts. The Student Wellness Project includes a focus on the provision of promotion and prevention services for students within the schools as well as collaboration with local community agencies to strengthen the capacity of the community as a whole to address mental health awareness.
There are three objectives of the Mental Health Capacity Building initiative:
- Promote positive mental health in children, youth, families and communities by raising awareness, increasing knowledge, building personal skills (such as self-care and self-regulation techniques), developing interpersonal skills and fostering positive community norms (such as support networks, physical and psychological safety).
- Intervene early by facilitating access to early intervention and treatment services for children, youth, parents and/or caregivers who are at greatest risk of (or are currently experiencing) addiction and mental health issues.
- Improve knowledge of and access to effective and innovative services across the mental health continuum through community collaborative networks with schools, health supports, and community agencies to coordinate and streamline existing services (while identifying and advocating for unmet needs).
There are four members of the Student Wellness Project team in High Level:
- Project Coordinator/Mental Health Therapist
- 3 Student Wellness Coaches, one located at each of High Level Public School, Spirit of the North Community School and Florence MacDougall Community School
Services are provided to students in ECS through grade 12 and their families in the FVSD schools in High Level.
The focus of the Student Wellness Project is to provide services within a collaborative framework along the continuum from universal to targeted to individualized programming, based on the needs of the individual and the school as a whole.
Services are provided by project staff as well as other community service providers such as Alberta Health Services – Addictions and Mental Health, Public Health and the RCMP, among others, in collaboration with the Student Wellness Project. Services provided may include the following among others:
- Education and awareness sessions for students, families, school staff and community partners related to mental health, healthy living and positive life choices
- Universal and targeted programs that help students develop skills in areas such as healthy relationships, self-regulation, anxiety and anger management among others
- Support for students facing family crises
- Support during transitions
- Connection of students and families with appropriate community services and agencies
An increasing focus is on influencing the capacity of the community as a whole to promote mental health and prevent mental illness. This will involve significant engagement and collaboration with community agencies and service providers.
A multi-stakeholder Community Collaborative Network, comprised of representatives from the schools, local community support services and agencies such as AHS Addictions and Mental Health, Children’s Services, Family and Community Support Services, Youth Activity Centre, RCMP, Parent Link Centre and others, meets several times each year to provide input regarding the ongoing implementation and development of the Student Wellness Project and to identify and mobilize community assets related to child, youth and family mental health specific to the High Level area.