By Bruce Chessell, the Woodstock Sentinel-Review
It’s all about informing the students about how they can get help.
The start of the school year is quickly approaching, and for the past summer months representatives from the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) have been sitting in on meetings held with students every Monday at Southside Park to better understand what they want moving into the new year.
Schools under the TVDSB all have staff with mental health experience.
Karen Edgar, the superintendant of student achievement at TVDSB, said all of their schools have part time counselors in their schools, as well as other staff members who are also trained to assist.
“As a school board, about 1,000 staff members in a variety of roles have been trained in ASIST, which is the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training,” Edgar said. “Those 1,000 staff who have been trained in ASIST are in every one of our secondary schools.”
This was not being properly advertised to the students though. Edgar said they found that many of the students who have attended those Monday meetings said they didn’t know about these trained staff members.
“One of the things we found out about, is because specific kids did not have need of that service they didn’t know who the people were,” Edgar said. “We’ve been listening to the students and working with the students… the kids give us ideas about how to make sure that they know who those staff members are.”
Based on the advice of the students, Edgar said the school board realized that they need to be more explicit about the supports that are available.
“We’ve been getting input from kids over the summer about how we can do that,” she said.
Edgar said they will be posting pictures of ASIST trained staff members in the schools so students know who to go to. Information on mental health and wellbeing will also be inside of the student’s planners and positive messages will also be put into the schools through announcements and artwork.
The school board will also continue to meet with students every Monday in Southside Park and will also be holding another meeting with 14 students, two student representatives from each highschool in Oxford County, in September, who will be a leadership group moving forward..
“We’re trying to really work with the students and be responsive,” Edgar said. “Are biggest learning experience is not that we haven’t had great stuff ongoing and in place, it was that the kids didn’t know. That’s the biggest lesson the kids taught us.”