Local teachers struggling with mental health issues can now receive assistance through a new 24/7 mental health support program. The Saskatchewan Teachers Federation is launching the program so that all teaching professionals across the province have access to professional counselling.
“The Members Family Assistance Plan is designed to serve a need that we found our members facing especially out in rural Saskatchewan and up in the north where they didn’t feel they were adequately supported in mental health and counselling services for just everyday situations, they may encounter,” says President Patrick Maze.
The service will provide counselling, legal and financial sessions, work-life solutions and wellness. Teachers can call in to access a system and will be connected to a local mental health worker for face to face care. If the teachers aren’t able to meet in person then they will receive phone or web-based counselling.
The teachers union hopes the service will eliminate a situation where staff have to take a day off to travel for a face-to-face consultation with counsellors.
Maze believes this will give teachers a support resource for any time of day as a crisis has no timeline. He says the increasing class sizes aren’t the only factor in more mental health issues popping up among teachers.
“Classes sizes have increased a bit but what we’re finding is there is more intensity in a workday and the diversity of the student body,” says Maze, who adds, students are now receiving lessons catered to their needs as opposed to one lesson plan for a whole classroom.
“Even if you’re out in rural Saskatchewan and you only have 15 students in your class but they might be spread across four grade levels, so you need to have different outcomes and indicators at each grade level, for each student, for each subject.”
The program will be available through the government-funded, Members Health Plan. Currently, the Federation provides in-house counsellors for members which will be phased out. Maze says long-term counselling will still be available for those in need.