Mental health as a human right: a review of mental health policies in Winnipeg school divisions
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The past two years of pandemic schooling have pushed many educators into a mental health crisis. Teachers were navigating the stress of educational outcomes, increased safety risks, lack of protection, regular COVID-19 exposures, constant changes in protocols, and providing increased supports for students in their classrooms. A 2020 profile of Canadian mental health services identified that per every 100 000 Canadians, there are 283 total mental health professionals (WHO, 2022). These figures average one mental health professional for every 353 Canadians, leaving mental health services understaffed and often inaccessible. While mental health services struggled to meet the demands of individuals pre-pandemic, the WHO has identified that anxiety and depression have increased 25% across the globe since March 2020 (WHO, 2022, COVID-19). According to the UN Special Rapporteur on mental health (2017), “there can be no health without mental health” (p. 3). The purpose of this research is to review current policies in Winnipeg’s six school divisions, identify formal mental health protections for educators, and propose recommendations for a sustainable future in education. The exploration of the mental health of educators will draw on international and domestic instruments to argue that mental health is undoubtedly a universal human right. This research will conclude with recommendations for stakeholders in education, including: the review of current policies, prioritize early interventions to reduce occupational burnout, increase capacity and availability of resources, increase accessibility to and remove barriers from mental health supports for educators, and make space for educators to process educational opportunities and challenges. It is crucial that every Canadian is afforded the right to security of person, and it is imperative that educators are protected in their classrooms as well. These protections must be mandated in policy and prioritized in school culture to ensure that teachers have the space to fully enjoy them. Schools must commit to nurturing a healthy environment for all within their buildings.