The early years of high school are times that influence, shape, and inspire us to become the adults we are today. The students of Ontario are introduced to a curriculum that will not only guide them to adulthood, but change the perspectives they have on many subjects. In Grade 9 Health and Physical Education, students are theoretically introduced to a wide variety of health topics. Students learn about many aspects of their physical health; however, the information provided probably lacks what they need most!

The current Ontario Grade 9 Health and Physical Education Curriculum does not sufficiently cover mental health. Imagine leaving high school knowing all you need to know about your physical health, yet know nothing about your mental health. 

Due to the lack of mental health education in school, there is a reinforcement of the stigma surrounding mental health, as people fear what they do not understand. The current curriculum was created in 1999 and beginning this school year, will be older than the students themselves. 

REACT, a youth-led advocacy group from Niagara Region Public Health (NRPH), has devised a plan to solve this problem by incorporating mental health education into the Grade 9 Health and Physical Education Curriculum. REACT is a group composed of high school students working together to advocate healthy lifestyles in different health topics. The Mental Health pod of REACT has created a campaign KNOW Mental Health, NO Stigma. The REACT group has created a report that outlines the issues surrounding the lack of mental health education, but has also proposed a solution.

In hopes of creating awareness about the issue, REACT has created a petition to introduce mental health education into the Grade 9 Health and Physical Education Curriculum for Ontario. The youth-led group has already received hundreds of physical and online signatures and we have hopes of gaining more. The group’s goal is to take the petition to the provincial government through local channels. With the original goal being 2,000 signatures, the group is ecstatic with the support that the petition has received within the first few days.

REACT is continuing to look for support and would appreciate any help it could get. Please consider reading the report, signing the petition, and sharing with your fellow coworkers, friends, and family. With your help, future students will receive the education that we lacked, and together we can reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.

Austin White
REACT Peer Leader
Niagara Region Public Health

Additional Resources:

Mend the Mind

Niagara Mental Health and Addictions Charter

NCDSB Mental Health and Addictions Support Plan

Niagara Suicide Prevention Coalition

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