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Day 3 – The End is Here

It's been a fun journey here in San Diego — such a variety of presentations and opportunities to connect with my colleagues from across the continent.

From the Field: Implementing an Evidence-based Framework to Support Student Mental Health

This morning I attended a session on student mental health. The statistics in the States are similar to what we are experiencing in Canada. Students are struggling. If we aren't paying attention and addressing the mental-health needs of our students, we are not able to make any of the academic and social-emotional strides we all want.

Tony Walker from the JED Foundation

Some stats:

  • 50% of us will experience a mental health challenge in our lives;
  • 67% of people ages 18-24 living with anxiety and depression do not seek or are unable to access treatment;
  • 2nd leading cause of death for people ages 10-34 in the US is suicide;
  • 42% of high school students experienced persistent feelings of sadness of hopelessness;
  • 22% of high school students seriously considered attempting suicide.

As a Superintendent, we are traditionally not trained in the area of mental health, yet there is both a community expectation and moral obligation to help find solutions to this crisis. Schools were not designed to be mental health institutions. Yet, we are here as THE social institution that is positioned to make a comprehensive difference in this area.

The session this morning spent some considerable time discussing what we CAN do as system leaders. It was a wonderful opportunity to spend some time thinking about my own district and the potential for additional interventions.

Some Final Thoughts

This was my first AASA national conference and one that will hold many positive memories for me.

One insight that has grown because of my attendance, is a deeper appreciation for my American colleagues and the unique challenges and opportunities that they are experiencing. As an example, being from British Columbia, Canada, our governance and operational structures are very different. In the US there is an overarching national bureaucracy including funding and educational priorities. In Canada, we are regionally governed, and it appears that our school districts have more local autonomy than my American counterparts.

Yet, we are all cut from the same cloth — the passion that we all have for student success and well-being is absolutely the same. This morning's session on mental health was a clear indicator of that.

We all care so deeply about the children in our care — academically, social-emotionally, physically. As our world increases in its complexity and the demands increase on school systems across the continent, opportunities like the AASA National Conference on Education become even more important. It's a critical time for us to share our challenges and successes so that we continue to be the social institution that makes a positive, indelible impact on our children and our collective futures.

Looking forward to my next AASA NCE.

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