As the first week of classes draws to a close, students are coming to terms with new expectations and circumstances.
However, a report from August shows one-third of Fort McMurray students show signs of PTSD stemming from the 2016 wildfire.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) provides mental health services for youth looking for help adjusting to school and life.
Over the last three years, hundreds of students entered the Addiction and Mental Health Services walk-in clinic.
AHS Addiction and Mental Health director for the North Zone, Edith Zuidhof-Knoop said their programs help students deal with health issues like stress and depression.
“[They] encourage children and youth to develop healthy behaviours to better understanding health issues, and how they can be proactive in managing those, [and] provide, in some cases, education specifically related to symptoms of mental illness, for example, coping with anxiety.”
In case of emergency, students can find crisis team members at the Northern Lights Regional Health Centre.
From Jan.-Aug. 2019, Zuidhof-Knoop said the clinic receives a steady demand for counselling and programs.
“At this time, there is an average of about 17 youth per month, who access services through our walk-in clinic, and that’s down slightly from the last couple of years where it would have been 20 [in 2018], and 21 [in 2017].”
Zuidhof-Knoop credited school partners and the CMHA Recovery College also provides support for students.
She referenced a particular program available in schools across the region that helps reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety.
Heartmath trains educators to teach students valuable coping strategies.
So far, feedback from the Public, Catholic, and Northlands school districts is positive.
“It provides educators with an enhanced set of tools, resources, and information they can use to teach students appropriate coping skills [for] the stress they might be experiencing.”
As the program enters the new year, Zuidhof-Knoop hopes more teachers, students, and parents will participate.
Despite access to various programs and services, the stigma of mental health exists for kids and families.
Zuidhof-Knoop recommends there is help for children, youth, caregivers, and parents.
“At the end of the day, help is available and our programs do want to provide that support when it’s needed.”
The AHS Addiction and Mental Health Services walk-in clinic provides individual, group, and outpatient services.
The clinic resides in Timberlea Landing plaza.