Student mental health: Canadian teachers call for more resources and professional development in schools

July 12, 2012

Halifax… According to a recent national survey of 3,900 teachers, many Canadians schools are ill-equipped and under-resourced to adequately support the mental health of students. This recurring theme emerged from the survey conducted by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) last winter. Findings were released today at the opening of the Federation‘s Annual General Meeting currently underway in Halifax.

The CTF survey set out to examine the teachers’ perspective on issues related to student mental health and well-being in Canadian schools, including their perceptions of factors that may act as potential barriers to the provision of mental health services for students. Teachers were also asked about their level of preparedness to address the mental health issues that they may face.

“As teachers, we want to be part of the important emerging conversation about child and youth mental illness and mental health. As a society, we all need to work together to raise awareness, provide timely supports, and reduce and ultimately eliminate harmful stigma,” says CTF President Paul Taillefer.

“Along with certified teachers, schools need educational assistants, psychologists, psychiatrists and other professionals to support students. However, 89 % of teachers who responded to our survey said there is a shortage of school-based mental health professionals.”

Most teachers reported they have not received any professional development in the area of student mental health. Over 96% of teachers indicated they wanted professional development opportunities and that the lack of provision of training could be a barrier to recognizing and understanding mental health issues in children, and to implementing strategies for working with children with externalizing behaviour problems.

Here are additional survey findings regarding pressing mental health concerns:

  • 9 in 10 teachers identified attention deficit disorders (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), as well as learning disabilities such as autism spectrum disorder and dyslexia were pressing concerns.
  • 79% of teachers agreed that stress (i.e. students feeling over-stressed) was a pressing concern, including one-third who “strongly” agreed.
  • 73% of teachers agreed that anxiety disorders were a pressing concern including 24% who “strongly” agreed.
  • a majority of teachers (59%) agreed that depression disorders were a pressing concern including 16% who “strongly” agreed.

“What teachers told us in this survey should be a call to action for all education partners,” concluded Taillefer. “This survey should help to inform the discussion about the role of schools and teachers in promoting student health and well-being and addressing mental illness.”

The online survey, conducted Feb. 6-17, 2012, drew the responses of 2,324 elementary school teachers and 1,603 secondary school teachers in both English schools (including immersion) and French as a first language schools thanks to participating CTF Member organizations.

CTF acknowledges the valuable support provided by the Mental Health Commission of Canada for assisting in the survey development and analysis. The full report, Understanding Teachers’ Perspectives on Student Mental Health, is available on the CTF Web site at

An alliance of 15 Member organizations and one Affiliate Member representing nearly 200,000 teachers across the country, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) is a member of the international body of teachers, Education International (EI).

Click on the following link to view the full report: Mental Health

Follow CTF on Twitter @CTFPresident, @CanTeachersFed, @EnseigneCanada



Paul Taillefer, CTF President


Francine Filion, Director of Communications, 613-899-4247 (cell)