World Health Day: Disability in our Schools
If we ask you to picture a student with a disability, what image comes quickly to mind? Perhaps it is someone using a wheelchair or other mobility device. As a common media presence, it would not be a surprise were that your initial impression. As World Health Day approaches and asks us to consider the necessity of universal coverage1 what are the health impacts on students we don’t always think of when we think of students with disabilities?
Take a student with anxiety as an example. What supports are in your school if they are having a panic attack and need to leave class in the middle of their presentation? It may take more than we realise for that student to return to the classroom, especially if the full level of support they require is not present. If up to 20% of Ontario’s youth will experience some kind of mental health issue2 and 28% of our students say they are not sure where to turn for resources or help with those issues3, it is incumbent on us as educators to find new and better ways to remove stigmas in the classroom and offer paths forward for students to access what they need.
Along with recognising the needs of your overall student population, it is necessary to acknowledge how students from other marginalised communities are impacted by mental health issues and related stigmas. For example, LGBTQ2S youth are at 14 times the risk of dying by suicide than their heterosexual peers4. Do your community support workers have experience targeting the needs of people with diverse sexual orientations? On top of that, youth in our poorest neighbourhoods experience the highest rates of emergency room visits for intentional self-harm and the highest rates of suicide attempts5. How are we navigating the intersection between class & ability to ensure students are always well taken care of?
While school boards do provide community workers and/or social workers, they are often lacking in time to pay close enough attention to all issues. Further, given stigmas related to mental health especially, not everything is reported to an adult or taken seriously when occurring. Harmony Movement wanted to provide some additional resources for students to access if they require more support or were not comfortable speaking to someone at their school.
Kids Help Phone: National, bilingual, 24-hour, anonymous, phone and web counselling service for children and youth. 1-800-668-6868 or www.kidshelpphone.ca
Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youthline: Ontario-wide phone, text and web support for LGBTQ2S youth (29 & under). 1-800-268-9688 or text 647-694-4275 or www.youthline.ca
Community Living Ontario: Family-based association assisting people who have an intellectual disability and their families to lead the way in advancing inclusion in their own lives and in their communities. www.communitylivingontario.ca
ReelAbilities Toronto As part of Harmony Movement’s growing list of national and provincial partners, we are discussing disability and health as part of our connection with ReelAbilities Toronto Film Festival. Showcasing Canadian and International shorts, features, and documentaries about Deaf and disability cultures and by filmmakers and actors with disabilities and/or who are Deaf. Over the past 3 years, RAFFTO has launched programs alongside producing the festival in the spring of each year. The 2018 festival, running May 30-June 4, will feature amazing new opportunities for schools and boards to bring these films directly into the classroom and help shift our conversations around Deaf and disability inclusion in Ontario schools. http://reelabilities.org/toronto/
ReelEducation To that end, we are happy to support ReelAbilities Toronto in the launch of their new resource ReelEducation! This amazing (free) plan provides resources for educators and parents to teach students about inclusion, empathy, universal design, mental health and stereotypes, as well as attitudinal and employment barriers. Each ReelEducation kit comes in an accessible format (films with open captioning) with a lesson plan that identifies the theme in each film. Films will be available this spring. A simple submission form is available here for you to begin the process of accessing the films, which will become available April 1, 2018!
2 MHASEF Research Team. (2015) The Mental Health of Children and Youth in Ontario: A Baseline Scorecard. Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.
3 Boak, A., Hamilton, H., Adlaf, E., Henderson, J. and Mann, R. (2016). The Mental Health and Well-Being of Ontario Students, 1991-2015: Detailed OSDUHS findings (CAMH Research Document Series No. 43).
4 Canadian Mental Health Association – Ontario. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans & Queer identified People and Mental Health. Webpage: www.ontario.cmha.ca/mental-health/lesbian-gay-bisexual-trans-people-and-mental-health/
5 MHASEF Research Team. (2015) The Mental Health of Children and Youth in Ontario: A Baseline Scorecard. Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences.
2-5 via https://www.cmho.org/education-resources/facts-figures#_edn1