While spending on mental health services in our province has been rising for years – the mental health needs of our province have been rising even faster. When children have mental health problems and illnesses, it affects them inside the classroom and out.

Without a focus on prevention and earlier intervention, we’ll never catch up.

We need to invest in education. Better access to student supports within our education system produces long-term savings in healthcare.

It’s not hard to see why:

  • Newfoundland and Labrador is currently functioning with less than 25% of the recommended number of Child/Adolescent psychiatrists in the province, and our province has the highest percentage of cases where patients wait more than a year for psychiatric treatment. (Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association)

We can no longer ignore the gap between students’ needs and our education system’s resources.

Guidance Counselors, Educational Psychologists, Instructional Resource Teachers, Student Assistants, Speech Language Pathologists, Behaviour Management Specialists, Program Specialists – these are vital student supports, not optional luxuries.

If we aren’t providing enough of these services within our classrooms and schools, we aren’t saving money – we’re just passing an even bigger cost along to our over-burdened healthcare system.

Even educational resources that aren’t directly targeting mental health problems and illnesses can save our healthcare system money, since education level is a major factor for mental health.

In Ontario, a prevention program was developed for children from junior kindergarten to Grade 2 aimed to reduce emotion and behavioural problems. Costs for each child for a dozen publicly-funded agencies – in healthcare and social services, for example – were tracked and analyzed along with comparison sites. By the time kids in the program reached grade 9, the system was already saving 25% per child in publicly-funded services. (Canadian Policy Network)

Looking at the evidence, it’s hard to argue that cuts to education are a “cost-saving” measure.

 A 2011 report from the Canadian Policy Network highlights the need for a broader approach to our growing mental health concerns:

“…one of the unique challenges with ROI studies in mental health promotion/illness prevention is that, to a large extent, the returns (economic or otherwise) typically show up in a sector other than the one in which the initial investments are made.”

Every reduction in essential student supports, like Guidance Counselors and Student Assistants, also reduces the odds of prevention and/or early intervention for every child.

Education affects our health.

Investing in education saves money in healthcare.

And creating classrooms that promote better health for every student…

 

Creates a big pay-off, for every single one of us.

Copyright 2017 Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association | All Rights Reserved