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3.2: Letters from the Editor

NOTE: these short articles have all appeared in BC Counsellor Magazine.

 

Spring/Summer 2023


Every week, I am inspired by my colleagues in education and mental health. This edition of BC Counsellor magazine is filled with inspiration, fresh perspectives, and new frontiers in our profession, which bridges both worlds.


  • Tamara Fernandez invites us on a personal journey which shows how hope grows from our life experiences to inform our work.

  • Kyla Lucas finds hope by reflecting on her five years teaching overseas, and the learning she has done during her master’s degree.

  • Dr. Shirley Giroux shares her research and experience in building connections to inspire hope among school counsellors across BC.

  • Dr. Rebecca Hudson Breen and Dr. Denise Larsen remind us that hope is a resource which may be utilised to enhance effectiveness.

In the past three years, two words have come up often in conversations with colleagues: "Busy" and "Burnout." Throughout this time, school counsellors have served their communities during an overdose emergency, a pandemic, concerning rises in youth mental illness and substance use, and so much grief. All the while, many families cannot access affordable services, the public services are overrun, and the student to school counsellor ratio in BC is 693 to one. No wonder we are so busy!


I also see hope: We are needed, and the services we provide are extremely valuable. School counsellors act to catch students before they fall into the river. We are the upstream service that can inspire hope in our students, our colleagues, and our communities that positive change is possible.


And so, I am hopeful for the next three years. Looking forward, I hope we can work together to advocate for local and provincial changes that will support the well-being of our students and all school counsellors in BC. What do you hope for?

 

Fall/Winter 2023


Teachers and counsellors share in common a devotion for helping people to change, grow, and fulfil their potential. school counsellors, who are both certified teachers and counsellors, are educational-mental health professionals whose role is focused on promoting positive change. The BC School Counsellors Association (BCSCA) has long supported the vision of the School Counsellor as catalyst, which is defined as a person or thing that causes change. To this end, this edition of BC Counsellor Magazine focuses on how school counsellors foster positive change.


  • Dr. John-Tyler Binfet’s article about cultivating kindness connects to the important work school counsellors do to promote social-emotional competencies, as well as mental well-being.

  • Claire Pitcher and Wanda Murphy’s article about pursuing positive change "one stone at a time" highlights the importance of advocacy when working with children and youth who are struggling with mental health and substance use.

  • Dr. Antonio Santos’ article about magical moments and therapeutic change elevates those precious moments in counselling when profound growth, healing, and learning take place.


We also celebrate BCSCA President Dave Mackenzie’s 18 years of service. Dave has been an incredible advocate for school counsellors, student mental health, and for education at large, driving positive changes in his own community and across the province.


As we prepare to gather for the BCSCA Conference in October, I encourage you to reflect on the ways in which you are already promoting positive change in your schools. Then, we can look towards the future and ask, "Where is our collective voice needed to advocate for change?"

 

Spring/Summer 2024


Dear Colleagues,


Our students are growing up during a mental health crisis. For example:

  • Since a public health emergency was declared in 2016, more than 13,000 people have died to toxic drugs in British Columbia (BC) [1];

  • In the 2018 BC Adolescent Health Survey, 17% of students, and 44% of non-binary students, reported they had seriously considered suicide in the past year [2]; and

  • Research in Ontario between 2002-2019 revealed a 139% increase in child and youth eating disorder hospitalizations [3].


Furthermore, there is a yawning gap between the level of need for child and youth mental health services and the actual availability of those services. Researchers at Simon Fraser University have called this state of affairs "an invisible crisis in children’s mental health" [4]. This gap exists despite the facts that access to healthcare is a fundamental right of all children and that mental health problems early in life can have severe long-term impacts on individuals and society.


In 2021, Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt and colleagues wrote:

Even before the pandemic, children and youth in Canada were not faring well in large part because mental health has not been prioritized… The pandemic has put a spotlight on this problem and with this attention comes the need for action. [5]

School counsellors hear this call to action because they are on the front line of child and youth mental health. The services school counsellors provide are crucial to addressing the mental health crisis because the majority of mental health and substance use problems begin in childhood and adolescence [6]. Since children and youth spend much of the week at school, it is the ideal setting for promoting their well-being and preventing relatively minor mental health challenges from developing into more severe (and costly) mental illnesses and substance use disorders.


Prioritizing the mental health of children is an upstream approach to addressing the mental health crisis, which stands in contrast to the reactive, downstream approaches which have historically been the norm. Downstream approaches are like throwing a life preserver to a person drowning in a river. Upstream approaches are like warning people about a dangerous section of trail to prevent them from falling in the river in the first place.


Upstream approaches such as highquality promotion, prevention, and early intervention programs can have a tremendous, positive impact on the success and well-being of our students. However, many mental health challenges are also caused and/or exacerbated by factors such as the climate emergency, discrimination, poverty, and violence to name but a few. Therefore, upstream approaches are also inherently connected to social justice.


With all that said, I am excited to share with you the articles in this issue of BC Counsellor, which focus on the social justice element of going upstream.


References

  1. BC Coroners Service. (2023). BC Coroners Service death review panel: An urgent response to a continuing crisis. https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/birth-adoption-death-marriage-and-divorce/deaths/coroners-service/death-review-panel/an_urgent_response_to_a_continuing_crisis_report.pdf

  2. McCreary Centre Society. (2018). Results of the 2018 BC Adolescent Health Survey. https://www.mcs.bc.ca/pdf/balance_and_connection.pdf

  3. Pratt, M. (2023). Eating disorder hospitalizations on the rise, affecting ‘atypical’ groups the most. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/1009736

  4. Barican, et al. (2022). Prevalence of childhood mental disorders in high-income countries: a systematic review and meta-analysis to inform policymaking. Evidence Based Mental Health, 25(1). https://doi.org/10.1136/ebmental-2021-300277

  5. Vaillancourt, T., Szatmari, P., Georgiades, K., and Krygsman, A. (2021). The impact of COVID-19 on the mental health of Canadian children and youth. FACETS. 6(): 1628-1648. https://doi.org/10.1139/facets-2021-0078

  6. Kessler, et al. (2007). Age of onset of mental disorders: A review of recent literature. Current Opinion in Psychiatry, 20(4). https://doi.org/10.1097/YCO.0b013e32816ebc8c

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