Mandatory Mental & Physical Health Supports Policy
THERE IS AN EPIDEMIC OF MENTAL ILLNESS AMONGST TEENS - ESPECIALLY GIRLS
Statistics below are from The Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey 2017.
In 2017 girls in grades 7-12 in Ontario:
*26.2% rated their mental health as just poor or fair;
*42.2% had unmet mental health needs;
*51.3% experienced moderate to severe emotional distress in the month prior to the study;
*24.9% were cyber-bullied;
* 5.3% attempted suicide, and
*19% seriously thought of attempting suicide. ...
Yet only 27.2% girls in grades 7-12 in Ontario saw a mental health professional, and 4.8% sought help on the telephone. e.g. KidsHelpPhone.
In addition, 1 out of 3 girls and women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime. Sexual assaults are 5x more prevalent in women and girls under 35 years old. http://sacha.ca/resources/statistics
ALL students attending Odyssey Heights must have documented regular access to medical care for their mental & physical health.
For the health and wellbeing of all students all students and their parents/guardians must follow the school health policies.
This strictly enforced school policy is for the health, safety, and success of all students.
Except in exceptional circumstances, Odyssey Heights does not require full counselling or medical session records, just a simple note confirming that the student attended an appointment on x day and time.
Students not providing documentation will not in any circumstance be allowed on overnight trips. In addition, students not providing documentation will most likely not be allowed on daytime field trips (including equestrian days, Monday morning fitness, ROM, etc…) and/or alternative attendance may be required.
Having all students regularly access mental health care destigmatizes mental health care, and provides students with resources when they need them, and helps with early screening for mental illness. Also, because of the sad, scary truth that 1 in 3 teen girls and young women will be sexually assaulted, there is an almost 100% chance that every single girl will be affected by sexual violence by the time she is finished university or college - either personally or when one of her friends is sexually assaulted. Being in the habit of accessing mental health care is essential in ensuring that our girls grow up with as many self-care habits and tools as possible.
FREE MENTAL HEALTH CARE FOR TEENS & YOUNG ADULTS IN TORONTO:
There does not have to be any cost to families for their daughters’ mental health supports. There are free teen/young adult mental health clinics https://www.skylarkyouth.org at Yonge & Eglinton and near Wesley Station, and free psychiatry services in Ontario.
Odyssey Heights’ Strict Mental & Physical Health Policies Come from Deeply About the Welfare of Teens and Children:
[Trigger warning for the letter below.]
A Letter From The Principal: In January 2007, I came home to a voicemail message from one of my former student’s moms. She said that her son had died from a drug overdose. He didn’t go to a recommended residential mental health treatment program (which he left my private academic coaching practice to do) and had started “self-medicating” for his anxiety and depression. She thanked me for “keeping my son with us as his happy self for the six months that he was with you.”. I collapsed on my living room floor and I don’t really remember the rest of the evening.
He was a “good kid, from a good family, in a nice neighbourhood’. He was an amazingly talented artist, film maker/photographer, and snowboarder. He was polite, nice, and caring. In a one of my small group summer programs he was a great role model for a grade 8 boy with severe anxiety at starting high school. Girls liked him. He wasn’t being bullied. He had tons of friends. His family was a lovely, warm, supportive one - even his grandmother lived a few houses down, on the same small street and he’d often go over for her home cooked Italian dinners. He got on well with his two younger brothers. They had a beautiful home on a nice street, in a nice neighbourhood. Even social media pressures weren’t an issue because it was 2007. His lack of medical treatment for his anxiety, depression, and adhd means that he’s no longer with us, and the world is poorer for it.
These strict health and wellness policies (and the creation of Odyssey Heights) come from a place of deep caring and love for teens and their families, from being a successful survivor of my own teen/young adult depression, anxiety, and ptsd, and from knowing what it feels like to lose a student. I never again want to hear a mom’s voice as she tells me her child has died. I would rather err on the side of caution, (including having a family upset that their daughter isn’t allowed to attend an activity/trip/school day, and/or finish the school year and that’s what they’re paying tuition for), than to have a student die or be seriously hurt by themselves or another student.
IF YOUR CHILD, OR ANYONE YOU KNOW IS IN CRISIS PLEASE CALL 911 AND/OR TAKE THEM TO THE NEAREST EMERGENCY ROOM.
It is much better to “over react” than to dismiss a potential mental health crisis. Skylark has additional resources to use in times of crisis (which should not be substituted for 911/or visiting an emergency room) https://www.skylarkyouth.org/resources/useful-links/
Overview of Requirements - Mental Health:
All students must have had at least one counselling appointment before starting to attend Odyssey Heights School for Girls/École pour filles Odyssey Heights, and had the counsellor confirm that the student is not at risk of harming herself* or others. No other school in the GTA has this wellness and safety requirement. Given the epidemic of mental illness in teens in Ontario, Odyssey Heights firmly believes that this is at least as important as the student physical exam many schools/summer camps require. (*Students who ‘cut’ will likely be allowed to attend, but may require additional supports, and/or may be on part-time in-person + part-time alternative attendance until their condition stabilizes.)
1) Students without anxiety, depression, ADHD, or other specific mental health needs
Must simply see a counsellor once a month. They don’t have to have a specific issue to talk about. If all is well, it’s a simple checkup.
There are free Skylark walk-in clinics at Yonge and Eglinton (under the Northern District Public Library - South entrance), and Wesley Station.
OHIP cards are not required. https://www.skylarkyouth.org
Note: Parents are welcome to walk-in to Skylark as well to discuss their teen’s mental health.
The school just requires a simple note confirming that the day and time that student attended an appointment, and that the student is not likely to harm themselves or others.
2) Students with anxiety, depression, ADHD, or other specific mental health needs must, at a minimum:
see a counsellor/be in a group therapy program at least 2x/month, and
see a psychiatrist 1x/term (or at a minimum be on a waitlist for a psychiatrist.) and
her parents/guardians must agree to the school and the student’s medical professionals communicating so they can work as a team to ensure the health, safety, and wellbeing of all.
-> Depending on circumstances more care (by a counsellor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or other professional) may be requested by the principal. Such circumstances may include (but are not exclusive to): school refusal or a history of school refusal (either/or non-attendance or non-participation), self-harm, suicidal ideations or attempts, change in medication, panic attacks/emotional distress while in school
As Odyssey Heights has a vulnerable, sensitive student population, and is a small school:
Families need to be aware that we take the health and welfare of our students very seriously. We would rather have a student leave our community, or not apply, than put the health, wellness, and safety of any of our school community at risk. Though some of the following language may seem much firmer than at the vast majority of independent schools, being clear and firm from the beginning is important, and will assist in building a community of like-minded families and staff. Many of the moms of our current and prospective students have been so worried for their daughters before finding Odyssey Heights, that they’ve cried and/or needed mental health supports themselves. We want our students’ families to be happy and healthy as well as our students!
Students who act in any way that harms, threatens to harm, or could potentially harm other students, staff, or community members physically or emotionally, will be immediately suspended (parents will have to pick them up), and either put on alternative attendance* for the rest of the school year or dismissed from the school. School fees remain due in full. Students under suspension or alternative attendance for such reasons may not communicate with other students during their suspension. This is to ensure the emotional wellbeing of all students.
Students who need to be admitted to hospital will be on alternate attendance until a medical professional considers them to be in recovered. They may communicate with classmates, but only when such communication is first read/listened to/watched by Odyssey Heights staff.
Students who develop addictions will be on alternate attendance until a medical professional considers them to be in recovered. They may communicate with classmates, but only when such communication is first read/listened to/watched by Odyssey Heights staff.
Odyssey Heights School for Girls/École pour filles Odyssey Heights is not a school for troubled teens/those in conflict with the law. Negative involvement with police* at any time during the school year - including all holidays - is grounds for immediate suspension, and most likely dismissal. (*This of course doesn’t include students who are in contact with police to help others or if they are victims of crime.)
Parents/guardians of students who cause harm to others (including emotional) will be responsible for full tuition and all fees, plus damages (including, but not limited to: pain and suffering, medical/trauma counselling for other students/staff, and operational harm) - both those damages assessed by the school and the courts. Parents/guardians defaulting on any of their fees will be charged interest plus a late penalty fee, will owe all legal and collections costs, and will be reported to credit bureaus. Overdue/defaulted fees have a disproportionate impact on small schools.
*Additional fees apply for alternative attendance with private online (Skype) or in-person academic coaching.
Overview of Requirements - Physical Health
[This section is being added to during our website update. All information below is current, but some information will be added in the next few weeks.]
physcial - physcial exam & vaccinations
Students are required to have a full physical exam before each school year, and submit the required form to the school office. Any issues need to be noted on the form. Students must be cleared by their family doctor, paediatrician, or a sports medicine doctor when they have any injuries. Students with concussions or head injuries will be on restricted activity for a minimum of 2 weeks after their injury (even when they have been cleared by a doctor), and must be cleared for outdoor and riding activities by a specialist.
Parents/guardians are required to submit a vaccination record and keep their child up to date on her vaccinations. The only allowed exception to students being vaccinated is if they are immunocompromised (eg have had an organ transplant or are recovering from cancer). Odyssey Heights students are in public every, single day at school. Don’t put others at risk. Also there is a reassurance of outbreaks of potentially deadly diseases due to a decreased public vaccination rate. It’s imperative that our students are safe.
Mandatory Vaccinations include:
Pertussis (whooping cough)
Varicella (chickenpox) - students born before 2010 may not have this, and should get a booster
Flu shot (by October 1st of each school year)
Students ages 14-16 need booster shots for: Tetanus, Pertussis (whooping cough), and Diphtheria.
With our active outdoor program parents may want to consult with their child’s doctor about getting the Tetanus shot early. It is also highly recommended that all students have their Hepatitis B vaccine.
Other: Other vaccinations will likely be required for international, and potentially out of province travel.
physical - dental
Students are required to have two dental exams each year. One must be in the 6 weeks prior to school starting in September. With all our overnight trips and days spent offsite, proper screening for any medical issues - including dental is imperative.
A brief letter is required from each student’s dentist attesting to good dental health, or, if work needs to be done when it is scheduled to be done, and if the situation would potentially cause issues on overnight or day trips.
physical - eyes
Students are required to have one eye exam each year. New students must have their exam no earlier than 6 weeks prior to school starting in September. The exam must screen for eye health (eg retina, eye pressure) and not just vision. Students with glasses will want to have a wood* or plastic pair of anti-reflection, anti UV prescription glasses for the overnight trips, AND a wood* or plastic pair of prescription polarized sun glasses. Students with contacts will want a back up pair of wood* or plastic pair of glasses, plus ideally, daily wear contacts for overnight trips. Note that as many of our trips are in winter, contacts are safer (especially for students with medium to stronger prescriptions) as glasses can freeze and essentially become useless.**
It is highly recommended, that students needing vision correction, or those with eye health issues in their family (eg glaucoma) should see an eye doctor 2x/year.
Notes: *Metal can freeze to a students face/ears in cold weather. Wood is much better for the environment than plastic, and can be more easily “field repaired” if broken.
**This happened to the principal on her grade 9 high school winter trip to Temagami. She had to snowshoe “blind” following the ‘blob’ that was the student in front of her for 4km in -30 degree C weather. Alternatively, students can bring prescription ski goggles.
Full details of the health and wellness policy will be available to families in the updated student and family handbook due out in late spring/early summer 2019. Parents/guardians, and students will be required to thoroughly read the handbook and sign a form stating that they have read it and agree to abide by all contents.