More Mental Health Resources Needed for Schools

Ontario Association of Social Workers calls on parents to make their voices heard

August 29, 2023

Parents should voice their concerns if their children’s mental health needs aren’t being addressed at school, says the Ontario Association of Social Workers (OASW), which is flagging persistent shortages of professionals even as mental health funding for schools increases.

The call comes one week before most students head back into class.

“The first day of school can be an anxious and exciting time for children,” says Deepy Sur, Chief Executive Officer of the OASW. “It’s the same for parents, many of whom will be concerned knowing there are not enough resources to meet their kids’ needs.”

Schools play a crucial role in the mental health care continuum. They are often the first point of access for students and parents looking for someone to talk about their mental health.

School social workers interact daily with students to address issues like sadness, anxiety, bullying, eating disorders, substance misuse, grief and other life struggles.

Although government funding for mental health in schools has risen considerably since 2018, to $114 million in 2023-24, there has not been a corresponding rise in the number of social workers.

Nearly half, or 46 per cent, of schools report no access at all to mental health specialists, according to People for Education. There are currently several hundred social workers in Ontario’s 4,800 public schools. A single school social worker can be spread across 5, 8 or even up to 13 schools, which doesn't give them the time to address students' concerns and intervene early with those who are struggling.

School boards are responsible for hiring mental health specialists, including social workers.

“Social workers are stretched thin in schools,” says Sur. “When you boil it down, this means that many students and families can’t access the help they need. Parents can advocate for greater support in schools by voicing their concerns to principles and trustees. Ask for more mental health supports in your school.”

There are 23,000 Registered Social Workers in Ontario. They are the largest group of regulated mental health providers in the province.

This release is also available on Canada Newswire

For further information or to schedule an interview with Deepy Sur, please contact:

Lisa Timoshenko
[email protected]

About OASW
OASW is the voice of social work in Ontario. It is a voluntary, provincial, non-profit association representing over 8,500 members. All members have a university degree in social work at the bachelor, master, or doctoral level. OASW works to actively speak on behalf of social workers on issues of interest to the profession and advocates for the improvement of social policies and programs directly affecting social work practice and client groups served.