Elk Island Public Schools (EIPS) will be launching a mental health pilot project for students in the new year. 

The school division recently received $1.9 million from the province as a part of a mental health grant. 

Mental health has become a much bigger issue since the pandemic hit in 2020. 

"We surveyed all of our students and we found that the need for enhanced mental health supports was really amplified as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Sandra Stoddard, associate superintendent for EIPS. "We had 60 per cent of our students reporting mental health and well-being deteriorated since the onset of COVID." 

EIPS plans on addressing those difficulties by allocating that grant money to a pilot project for junior high students across the division.

"What we're planning to do is what we are calling a 'reset room'," said Stoddard. "We will have one certificated staff, an actual teacher that is trained in the reset room in mental health literacy that will be supported by our counselling team." 

"They will be available anytime that students are feeling that they need to have support, a mental health break, or when they need to leave the classroom when they are feeling overwhelmed." 

This will allow students to be under the supervision of an EIPS teacher who has the proper training to help support them. 

By having this space, the division is hoping that they can not only give students a space to unwind, but also give them the tools to help deal with some of the mental challenges they are undergoing. 

"What we want to be able to do is offer students a school-based literacy support space to teach them how to self-regulate, teach them how to deal with anxiety, and to support and educate students about advocating for their own mental health and well-being," said Stoddard. 

Apart from the reset rooms, EIPS will also be partnering with family support services to assign solution navigators to feeder schools. 

"The reason that we are accessing that support is that it is outside of our mandate to provide treatment," said Stoddard. "Our solution navigators are able to work and provide children and families the support that they might require to address larger-scale mental health issues that might require treatment." 

EIPS has high hopes that this project will be able to help students in more ways than one. 

"[We are hoping that] by working smarter and in collaboration with other service providers we will be able to see a decrease in the mental health issues that are evident in schools, but also to see an increase in the achievement of our students." 

"There is research that really does connect emotional and mental health well-being to academic achievement in students."

The project should be getting underway in the first few weeks of 2023 and will run until June 2024.