Mental health in schools

Learn more about how to understand and promote positive mental health in schools.

Mental Health Helpline: 1-877-303-2642

This toll-free helpline provides confidential and anonymous services, crisis intervention, information about mental health services and referrals to other agencies.


Just like physical health, everyone has mental health. It begins at birth and continues throughout life. Good mental health is not merely the absence of mental health problems.

Students should be healthy, so that they can fully participate in school and community activities.

The Public Health Agency of Canada describes positive mental health as 'the capacity of each and all of us to feel, think and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. It is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual well-being that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections and personal dignity'.

People who are mentally healthy:

  • have a sense of contentment
  • can deal with stress and bounce back from adversity
  • have a sense of purpose and meaning
  • can build and maintain fulfilling relationships
  • are flexible and can adapt to change
  • balance work and play, rest and activity
  • have self-confidence and high self-esteem

School pilot project

Mental Health in Schools Pilot

The education system plays an important role in contributing to enhanced positive mental health in children and youth. Promoting and supporting positive mental health and welcoming, caring, respectful, and safe learning environments is vital to ensuring children and youth are resilient better able to learn, achieve success and build healthy relationships. This is the shared responsibility of parents, educators, community and government.

The Government of Alberta is supporting close to 80 mental health pilot projects, with the final projects being completed by the end of the 2024-25 school year. The projects will encourage student well-being through new and innovative approaches to providing supports and services like counselling, social and emotional learning, student assessment, family- and parent-oriented supports, and training for school staff. Alberta’s government increased the total funding to up to $50 million – an increase of $30 million above the original allocation.

Working together

We all have a role to play

Understanding and promoting positive mental health in schools is a shared responsibility of parents, educators and community partners. Parents are encouraged to talk to their children about how they are feeling, and let them know they are there for them. Physically and emotionally healthy students are more likely to be successful in school and in life.

There is growing evidence on the long-term value of promoting the positive mental health of children and young people. This is done through shaping early childhood experiences, understanding brain development, positive parenting, early intervention and effective educational services and programs.

We can make a difference through timely action. Schools and communities are key environments to promote mental health and build protective factors such as self-esteem, emotional resilience, positive thinking, problem-solving and social skills, stress management skills and feelings of mastery. These are essential foundations for countering negative factors in the lives of children and youth.

To be most effective, promoting mental health should be part of a whole school approach. This includes providing education to children, youth and their families, creating partnerships with community agencies, creating welcoming, caring, respectful and safe school environments and implementing policies that support mental wellness.

Mental health approaches and practices in schools can help to:

  • enhance academic achievement and school attendance
  • increase academic confidence and engagement in learning and in community life
  • reduce high-risk behaviours of children and youth
  • increase involvement in community activities and citizenship
  • enhance respect and appreciation for diversity and individual differences
  • create welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environments

A comprehensive and coordinated approach is the best way to promote positive mental health.

Current research clearly identifies the importance of mental health to learning, as well as to students' social and emotional development. Students who experience positive mental health are resilient and better able to learn, achieve success, and build healthy relationships.

'Working Together to Support Mental Health in Alberta Schools' means:

  • developing a shared language
  • connecting brain development and mental health
  • moving toward a strength-based approach to
    • build resiliency
    • enhance social-emotional learning
    • support recovery
  • implementing a whole-school approach
  • designing a continuum of supports
  • understanding pathways to service
  • identifying key roles for all partners

Supporting mental health

  • Alberta 211 provides information, mental health referrals and resources. Professionally trained specialists are available by texting INFO to 211, live chat through the website, or calling 2-1-1.
  • If a child needs someone to talk to, they can text CONNECT to the Kids’ Help Phone at 686868 or call 1-800-668-6868. This 24/7, free service offers professional counselling, information and referrals.
  • If a parent, school staff member or other adult needs someone to talk to, they are encouraged to call the confidential, toll-free, 24/7 mental health helpline at 1-877-303-2642. This helpline is attended by a team that includes nurses, psychologists and social workers.
  • The Alberta Health Services website Help in Tough Times also has helpful information, including the Text4Hope resource, which you can subscribe to for free by texting COVID19HOPE to 393939. It offers 3 months of supportive text messages written by mental health therapists.
  • Kickstand offers the MoreGoodDays text messaging service. This service offers daily inspiration and advice to boost mental health – this program is similar to AHS’s Text4Hope, but geared specifically to young people. Young people can get started by texting “MoreGoodDays” to 393939.
  • Indigenous families may wish to contact the toll-free Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 or the online chat at (open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). This line offers immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous peoples across Canada in Cree, Ojibwe and Inuktitut.


The role of community

The role community can play to support mental health in schools.