Mental Health and Well-Being

For parents/guardians and families

Is someone at serious risk of hurting themselves or someone else? Call 9-1-1 immediately, or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.

We understand how difficult the transition to remote learning can be for students, parents/ caregivers and staff. We are here to help.
We continue to prioritize mental health and well-being through a range of classroom supports and board professional services. There are many people available to help. You can talk to your child’s Teacher, Principal or the school’s Student Counsellor.
We will continue to make our way together, schools are a part of a circle of support for students, both in-person and virtually. You are not alone.

If you become concerned about your child’s mental health, it is good to seek help. Your child’s teacher or principal can help direct you to services in the school, board, or community. You may also wish to consult with your family physician or can connect directly with a community mental health agency near you. You can connect with community agencies anytime via phone, text, messenger chat, or at a walk-in counselling clinic. 

One of the most important things you can do is prioritize and protect your own mental health. Caring for your own wellness, and seeking support when you need to, is one way to help your child to stay mentally healthy.

Frequently asked questions

Sometimes changes in behaviour or emotions are a sign that students need more support for their mental health. Here are some signs to watch for:

  • Changes in behaviour or emotions that seem out of proportion even with the current circumstances (e.g., angry outbursts, depressed mood, sense of panic).
  • The changes last most of the day, every day.
  • The changes last for a sustained period of time (e.g., more than a week).
  • The changes seem to interfere with your child’s or teen’s thoughts, feelings or daily functioning – for example, they may not do activities they normally enjoy, they’re crying more than usual, or they may not interact with you as much as they usually do.
  • Your child or teen tells you they’re feeling sad or anxious a lot.
  • If your child expresses thoughts of hurting themselves or engages in suicidal behavior, seek help from a mental health professional immediately.

Get help from a mental health professional. There are many different types of support available both within the school system and in the community. Find help over the phone, by text, by messenger chat, or in-person at a walk-in counselling clinic.

How to access immediate help for mental health concerns:

If you feel you need urgent assistance with your child’s mental health, the following helplines are available, and/or you can seek help from your local hospital emergency room or acute care site.

  • Ontario Help Lines for Mental Health: Children and teens can speak with a counsellor 24/7 by calling Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or texting CONNECT to 686868.
  • The Black Youth Helpline: offers support for all youth and specifically responds to the need for a Black youth specific service, positioned and resourced to promote access to professional, culturally appropriate support for youth, families and schools. Please call: 1-833-294-8650
  • The Hope for Wellness Help Line offers mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous peoples across Canada. Please call 1-855-242-3310.
  • The Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) offers a 24-hour Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Line with culturally specific mental health and addiction supports for adults, youth, and families in Ontario in both English and French, please call: 1-877-767-7572.
  • Use Ontario 211 to look up the services available in your area.
  • Try the Kid’s Help Phone Resources Around Me: Sometimes it is hard to know if your child is experiencing a mental health problem, or a typical reaction to pandemic hardships. These two resources may be helpful in guiding your approach.
  • Prepare-Prevent-Respond Info Sheet for parents and caregivers related to suicide prevention (quick reference available in many languages).
  • Pathways to Care: click your location below to find available help in your area: City of Kawartha Lakes, County of Haliburton, and District of Muskoka.

Contact your family doctor to ask about local services you may be able to access.
I do not have a family doctor, visit the find a doctor or nurse page on the Ontario government’s website for assistance in finding a local family doctor or nurse practitioner who is accepting new patients.

It can be challenging to talk about mental health. Sometimes parents, like others, avoid the conversation because they don’t know how to start or they worry that they might put thoughts into their child’s head that had not been there, and will, therefore, make things worse. Research tells us that this is not the case. Bringing up worries, concerns, changes in behaviour etc. with your child will open the lines of communication rather than worsen the situation.

Here are some tips to help you talk to your child about mental health:

  • Find a quiet time when you are unlikely to have interruptions to begin the conversation.
  • Reassure your child that they can tell you anything and you will not get angry with them (even if you get scared).
  • Start the conversation with describing changes you have noticed in their mood, behaviour, reactions etc.e.g., “I have noticed that you seem to be crying more.” If you have had conversations with your child’s teacher about concerns, include comments from the teacher’s observations.
  • Share that you “wonder” about how your child might be feeling, what they might be thinking, what they might be worried about etc. e.g., “I wonder if you’re feeling sad about losing your friendship with Sam.”
  • Allow your child time to reflect before they answer.
  • Stay calm and don’t abandon the conversation if your child responds with “Nothing is wrong……leave me alone”. If this happens, reassure your child that you are there for them. Give your child some time and then try again.


If your child tells you anything that makes you worried (e.g., thoughts of suicide, overwhelming anxiety, self-injurious behaviour like cutting) reassure your child that you are glad they told you and you will help them find the right professional to talk to, and you will be there for them throughout the journey.

In addition to seeking outside support, there are things we can do at home to help our child if we are concerned for their mental health:

Be patient and understanding
It’s important that your child understands that you still love them, even though you may be concerned with some of their behavior. Always approach them in a calm and caring way, maintain regular and open communication and create a home environment that is warm and loving with ample opportunity for your child to experience being valued for who they are. Try to be understanding with your child, as they may just need more reassurance and calm during this time.

Try to establish a flexible routine
This might include a regular, but relaxed, time for waking and sleeping, and perhaps for meals and snacks. Playing and talking together can help everyone to feel more relaxed. This can take some planning at first while new schedules are being worked out. Watch for those natural moments when you can just be together and follow your child’s lead.

Encourage balance
Some children/teens may turn to Netflix, social media or gaming as a distraction from the day-to-day reality —this is to be expected and you may also find you’re looking for distractions yourself. Taking breaks from screen time is helpful. Plus, too much social media exposure can have a negative impact on mental health. It’s a good idea for all of us to prioritize wellness as much as possible at this time. Try to encourage regular sleep habits. You could invite your child to get outside for daily walks with you, or to do some cooking together.

Fear, depression, social anxiety, and other mental health issues can make it difficult for children to feel comfortable going to school. When children are exposed to significant stress, violence, or trauma in their homes or communities, it can also trigger mental health issues that cause them to be chronically absent from school.

Chronic absenteeism (missing 15 or more school days/year) is related to a range of negative life outcomes including school dropout, unemployment, poverty, substance use, contact with the criminal justice system and poor physical and mental health.

Schools are a great place for children and youth to experience and learn about mental well-being. Educators play an important role in teaching students about mental health and helping them develop the skills they need to be mentally healthy.

School Mental Health Ontario

Mental health is everyone’s business, and we all have a role to play. As a parent, guardian, caregiver or family member, you have a particularly special role in supporting child and youth mental health. Increase your understanding of mental health and learn about how Ontario’s schools support mental health.

View the latest Mental Health Curriculum for each grade.


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