New resources help EASE anxiety in grade 8-12 students

October 7, 2021 at 9:51 am  BC, News, Politics

High-school teachers have new classroom resources to help students manage anxiety, thanks to the launch of Everyday Anxiety Strategies for Educators (EASE) 8-12.

“The pandemic has had a profound impact on children’s and youths’ mental health,” said Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development. “Expanding EASE to grades 8-12 puts practical and much-needed tools for managing anxiety directly into classrooms, so even more young people can learn how to boost their coping skills in these challenging times.”

EASE materials focus on breathing, mindfulness and coping skills, along with strategies to tackle common problems like procrastination, test anxiety, facing fears, managing unhelpful thoughts, calming public-speaking nerves, managing mood and social media’s impact on mental health and well-being.

“As a parent to two young people, I feel grateful and relieved that EASE is now available for grade 8-12 teachers,” said Kali Love, whose children attend school in School District 5 (Southeast Kootenay). “On top of regular school stress, social pressures and schoolwork, teenagers are tasked with balancing it all. Using EASE, teachers can help to educate my kids on managing their anxiety in a healthy way that will not only help them immediately, but will also reduce mental-health stigma in schools.”

EASE is rooted in the evidence-based principles of cognitive behavioural therapy. It first launched in 2019 to provide kindergarten to Grade 7 educators with adaptable online materials to teach students coping skills to help them manage mild to moderate anxiety. Since then, EASE at Home launched, making it easy for parents and caregivers to share the lessons with their children. The kindergarten to Grade 7 materials have also been translated into French.

The school-based resources are free and available to educators, school counsellors and support staff within school districts, independent schools and First Nations schools, following completion of a self-paced online course. EASE aligns with the B.C. curriculum and the Ministry of Education’s Mental Health in School’s strategy.

“Students have the best education experiences when they feel safe and supported,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education. “Mental wellness is a priority as students continue to live with anxiety during the pandemic, and EASE is another resource for educators to use so that we have a variety of strategies to meet the unique needs of students.”

More than 5,500 educators are now participating and have grade-specific resources to teach students a suite of skills they can use throughout their lives. The initiative aligns with the government’s commitment to provide school-based mental-health programming and resources focused on promotion, prevention and early intervention. EASE also complements the First Peoples Principles of Learning and supports the integration of locally adapted and applied Indigenous perspectives. An Indigenous literacy teacher and an Elder participated in the development of these resources.

As a school-based support, EASE is part of government’s ongoing work to build a seamless and co-ordinated mental health and addictions system of care in B.C. The two-year progress report on A Pathway to Hope, B.C.’s 10-year mental-health plan, was released in September 2021. As part of the plan, integrated child and youth teams will soon be in the Comox Valley and Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, with 20 communities expected to be on board by the end of 2023-24.

“We know that many young people are facing increased mental health challenges brought on by the pandemic,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Providing high-school teachers with the tools they need to support their students’ mental well-being will help prevent small problems from becoming bigger down the road.”

EASE 8-12 was developed by the Ministry of Children and Family Development, in collaboration with grade 8-12 teachers, school counsellors, social and emotional learning educators, youth from school districts and independent schools, Open School BC and other subject-matter experts.

Quotes:

Bev Baker, district counsellor, School District 60, Peace River North

“This pandemic has really upped the incidents of anxiety and other mental-health issues for students and parents, adding to the high levels that were already present in our schools. EASE materials, rooted in cognitive behavioural therapy techniques, give students the skills and knowledge to combat their anxious feelings right away, and that can make a big difference in helping them believe that they can have a direct impact on managing these challenges.”

Robyn Lindahl, district behaviour specialist, School District 22

“These evidence-based classroom resources will really help build my knowledge about anxiety and provide easy classroom resources that couldn’t come at a better time. I plan to incorporate these into our Connections Program as an anchor to help students ground themselves whenever they need to.”

Quick Facts:

  • An estimated 5.2% (39,000) of children and youth in B.C. will be affected by an anxiety disorder. 
  • In the McCreary 2018 BC Adolescent Health Survey, 15% of B.C. youth reported that they suffer from a mental-health condition, the most common being anxiety and panic attacks.
  • Anxiety and stress problems can have a lot in common. The difference is that in an anxiety disorder, the symptoms are extreme and do not go away once the stress is over.

Learn More: 

Visit the EASE website: https://healthymindsbc.gov.bc.ca
And see the full EASE suite here: https://healthymindsbc.gov.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/EASE-infographic-2021.pdf

Learn more about anxiety in children and youth from Anxiety Canada: https://www.anxietycanada.com/learn-about-anxiety/

Read the Ministry of Education’s Mental Health in School’s strategy: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/erase/documents/mental-health-wellness/mhis-strategy.pdf

Learn about the First Peoples Principles of Learning: http://www.fnesc.ca/first-peoples-principles-of-learning/

Read the two-year progress report on A Pathway to Hope:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/government/ministries-organizations/ministries/mental-health-addictions/pathway_to_hope_update_report_final.pdf

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