Windsor public school board hires first wellness teacher to focus on student mental health

May 05, 2022

The Greater Essex County District School Board hired its first wellness teacher to help students

learn more about their mental health. (James Arthur Gekiere/Belga Mag/AFP/Getty Images)


With reports of children's mental wellness significantly impacted over the course of the pandemic, Windsor's English public school board has created a new role to help youth prioritize their mental health. 

The Greater Essex County District School Board hired Jodi Nolin as its first wellness teacher at a time when youth across the country have faced increasing stress and pressures due to the pandemic. 

Nolin told CBC Radio's Windsor Morning that she is helping students bring more attention to their mind by engaging in mental health literacy lessons, social-emotional learning and mindfulness techniques. 

"When I come in the room, I tell them when we're in school we spend a lot of time developing our intelligence and strengthening our body to sports and exercise but historically we don't give our mind a lot of attention," she said, adding that she makes sure the lessons are relevant to what youth may be experiencing. 

She said at first students might laugh or feel bored and frustrated during the mindfulness sessions, but a few lessons in and she's noticing that they are engaging more. 

She said she's visiting students in kindergarten to Grade 12, as well as virtual classrooms. 

"Right now, educators want to support mentally healthy classrooms, any time in life there's going to be stressors and if we can equip students with tools in their backpack for life to manage stress better, to improve their relationships then they're going to be more ready to learn," she said, adding that the feedback from students has been really positive. 

Study finds COVID-19 surges weighed on students

new study focused on southwestern Ontario children found that during COVID-19 surges, children reported increased worry that was associated with symptoms related to various diagnoses, including depression and anxiety. 

The study was published in April and collected data from 317 families, whose children were between the the ages of eight and 13.

A majority of the families were located in Windsor-Essex and researchers collected data in intervals from parents or guardians and children between June 2020 and December 2021. 

Findings show that children reported increased worry that they or a loved one would be diagnosed with COVID-19 during months where cases, hospitalizations and deaths were on the rise. 

The increased worry, according to the study's results, was associated with elevated psychological distress and symptoms related to depression, irritability, posttraumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. 

Children also reported increased stress when lockdowns came into effect and when big events had to be cancelled. 

The study was funded by a grant from the WE SPARK Health Institute and then received further funding from Ontario's Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.