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Mental Health and Well-being

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Mental health affects us all – and has real impacts on our lives. At HWDSB, we are committed to supporting the mental health and well-being of all students and staff. We embrace Public Health Canada’s definition of positive mental health as:

“the capacity of each and all of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. It is a positive sense of emotional and social well-being that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections and personal dignity.”

What’s New:

COAST Hamilton
Mental health crisis outreach and support for all ages.
Crisis Line (905) 972-8338; coasthamilton.ca

Kids Help Phone
24/7 counselling and information service for young people.
Crisis Line 1-800-668-6868; kidshelpphone.ca

McMaster Children’s Hospital: Child and Youth Mental Health Emergency Services (CHYMES)
McMaster Located within the emergency department for youth age 17 and younger.
1200 Main St W, Hamilton, ON L8N 3Z5

Sexual Assault Centre of Hamilton (SACHA) – Crisis Line (905) 525-4162 sacha.ca

Call 911

General Mental Health

Anxiety, Low Mood & Depression

  • Families Worrying Less Together: If you are a parent/primary caregiver of a student in grades JK to 2 or grades 3 to 6 who is excessively shy, or has intense worries and fears, come learn about the “Families Worrying Less Together” program. This program will give you practical strategies to help your child learn to cope differently. Please note: The program is for parents and primary caregivers, children do not attend.
  • Teen Activation Group (TAG)TAG is a treatment group for youth (grades 9 to 12) struggling with depression and anxiety who are not ready to access other treatment options. The group is based on Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Behaviour Activation Therapy. The goal of the group is to help child and youth to reduce their depressive and anxious symptoms and increase their overall activity level, so they can access other treatment options or so they no longer require treatment. The group engages in education sessions, as well as social and physical activities. This is an open group and referrals are accepting on an ongoing basis. To access Social Work Services, please contact the Principal/Vice-Principal of your school or (905) 527-5092 ext. 2806.
  • TRAILS to WellnessTRAILS groups are designed to help our children and youth (grades 6 to 12) who struggle with moderate symptoms of stress, anxiety, and/or depression by teaching evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness skills. TRAILS aims to help children and youth develop effective coping skills and strategies to help manage their emotions and choose helpful behaviours. This is a 10-week program that may be offered virtually and/or in person, as public health guidelines allow. Children and youth who might benefit from the group are primarily having difficulty with both anxiety and depressive symptoms/low mood that is impairing their functioning. Children and youth interested in participating should have some awareness of their struggles and would be motivated to improve their coping skills. Parent sessions are also available as part of the program, so that parents have a better understanding of their child’s mood and anxiety difficulties and effective strategies to continue to improve overall wellbeing. This is a closed group, and we are currently accepting applications. To access Social Work Services, please contact the Principal/Vice-Principal of your school or (905) 527-5092 ext. 2806.
  • Mental Health and Well-being – Anxiety: This session focuses on increasing participants’ understanding of anxiety. Participants will learn to identify signs and symptoms, understand what they can do to help, and take away some strategies that can be used at home, school, and in the community.
  • Mental Health and Well-being – Low Mood: This session focuses on increasing participants’ understanding of low mood and its impact on students’ performance and overall well-being. Participants will gain knowledge about the signs and symptoms associated with low mood, learn how to help, and take away strategies that may be beneficial at home, school, and in the community.
  • Anxiety Infolet for Parents
  • Anxiety in Kindergarten
  • Anxiety in Youth Infolet
  • Depression – when it’s more than sadness

Black Communities

Drop-in Counselling

  • Catholic Family Services – Various counselling, including walk-in and support programs available to the Hamilton community. (905) 527-3823; com
  • Youth Wellness Centre (age 17+) – Drop in counselling Wednesdays 1-5:30 p.m. at Child and Adolescent Services, 100 Main Street East, Suite 220. Ask for Peter from the Youth Wellness Centre at Reception on Thursdays 8:30-11:30 a.m. at 38 James St. S., Hamilton.

Emotional Regulation

Emotion Coaching is a communication strategy that can calm the brain in as little as 60 seconds, and help improve relationships. Emotion Coaching has two steps:

  1. VALIDATION: Letting someone know we understand why they feel, think or act a certain way.
  2. SUPPORT: Then, we provide emotional and practical support using strategies like reassurance, limit-setting, redirecting, collaborative problem-solving, teaching skills, etc.

Learn more:

Executive Functioning

Free online programs

  • Internet-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (iCBT) available through MindBeacon or Morneau Shepell: free online cognitive behavioural therapy to develop skills and strategies to address symptoms of mild to moderate anxiety and/or depression. Online support by a therapist.
  • BounceBack: 1-866-345-0224. Free program that provides guided mental health self-help supports for those above age 15 using workbooks, online videos and phone coaching.
  • Big White Wall: an anonymous online community where members can support each other 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
  • Wellness Together Canada portal: free online resources, tools, apps and connections to trained volunteers and qualified mental health professionals
  • Anxiety Canada
    Leader in developing free online, self-help, and evidence-based resources on anxiety.
  • Your Space Hamilton: Place for youth and families looking for mental health information and supports in Hamilton, Ontario.


  • Notre Dame House: An emergency shelter for homeless or street- involved youth age 16-21. (905) 308-8090
  • Youth Reconnect: For youth ages 13-19 at risk of homelessness or with a history of housing instability. 905-308-8090

Indigenous People

  • Mental Health Support for Indigenous Students –from School Mental Health Ontario site
  • De dwa da dehs ny (Aboriginal Health Centre): 905 544 4320. Improving the health and well-being of Indigenous individuals, families and communities through holistic Indigenous, Traditional and Western health care.
  • Hamilton Regional Indian Centre: 905 548-9593. To provide the Urban Aboriginal People with the tools to achieve a balanced holistic lifestyle
  • Indigenous Call Centre:  905 549 4884, ext. 416. Niwasa Kendaaswin Teg culturally safe call centre that connects Indigenous residents in Hamilton to resources such as food supports and mental health supports.
  • Hope for Wellness Helpline: 1-855-242-3310. Immediate mental health counselling and crisis intervention for Indigenous peoples by calling or using live web chat.
  • Talk 4 Healing: 1-855-554-4325. 24/7 support and resources for Indigenous women in 14 languages by calling or texting.
  • Mental Health & Wellness Tips: The Assembly of First Nations resources and tips for mental health and wellness during COVID-19.
  • Indian Residential School Survivors and Family: 1-800-721-0066. The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line is available 24-hours a day for anyone. experiencing pain or distress as a result of their Residential school experience.

Muslim Communities

  • Naseeha Mental Health Hotline: 1 (866) 627-3342. Mental Health workshops, web therapy sessions, and texting mental health support 5 days a week for Muslim and non-Muslims.

Newcomers, Immigrants and Refugees

People with Specialized Needs

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Mental Health: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the way a person communicates and relates to people and the world around them. It is a wide range or spectrum of conditions characterized by challenges with speech and nonverbal communication, social skills, and repetitive behaviors, and can cause significant communication, social, and behavioural challenges, placing children and teens with autism at an increased risk for mental health concerns.  Join us to discuss the unique challenges faced by individuals with autism, and strategies that can help to increase their calm. Autism and Mental Health infolet
  • CNIB: free virtual programs for those who are blind or partially sighted, their families, friends and caregivers.
  • Canadian Association of Community Living: COVID-19 mental health resources for those with disabilities.
  • Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health: Children and teens with developmental delays often have difficulty communicating their needs and often experience long periods of heightened stress trying to keep up with the fast pace of the world around them. Join us to discuss the unique challenges faced by individuals with developmental disabilities and mental health concerns (often referred to as dual diagnosis) and learn strategies that may help to increase their calm. Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health infolet.
  • Health Care Access, Research, and Developmental Disabilities (HCARDD): virtual mental health supports for people with developmental disabilities and their families.
  • The Gifted Learner and Mental Health: Being a student with a gifted learning profile brings with it potential pros (learning at an advanced pace, opportunity to extend their learning) but also potential cons (not always sharing the same interests with same aged peers, heightened expectations). Being identified as having a gifted learning profile does not necessarily place students at a higher risk for mental health challenges, but it can place them at a unique risk for concerns such as anxiety, depression, and perfectionism. Join us to discuss the unique challenges faced by students with a gifted profile and learn strategies that can help to increase their calm. Gifted and Mental Health infolet
  • Learning Disability and Mental Health: Children and teens living with Learning Disabilities (LD) often experience feelings of inadequacy, frustration, and anxiety because their efforts at school may not result in the same grades and recognition as their peers, despite having average range intellectual skills. Not only do these feelings of failure and frustration, as well as difficulty processing information inherent in learning disabilities, make learning and navigating social relationships even harder, they can also place children at increased risk of experiencing mental health concerns. Learning Disabilities and Mental Health infolet.
  • Mental Health and Well-being – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: This session focuses specifically on ADHD (inattentive type, hyperactive type and combined type). Research regarding the onset and neurobiology of ADHD will be presented.  Other difficulties commonly associated with, or resulting from, ADHD will be addressed.  Effective strategies that parents and caregivers can use in the home will be discussed. ADHD Parent infolet

Sexual Health

  • Sexual Health Clinics provide many services including testing for sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy tests and birth control. There are four locations across Hamilton. To find the closest one to you visit, ca/public-health/clinics-services/sexual-health-clinics or call the info line 905-528-5894

Social Work at HWDSB

Social Work Services provides individual child and youth mental health and well-being supports in the following areas:

  • Mental health, such as anxiety or low mood,
  • School avoidance and non-attendance,
  • Personal or social stressors (i.e., adverse childhood experiences, peer relationship, stress substance use,)
  • Family stressors that impact on the student’s functioning at school
  • Experiencing systemic oppression and discrimination (racism, poverty, colonialization, homophobia/biphobia/transphobia, poverty etc.)
  • Crisis, such as imminent risk of harm to self or others.

Individual Support can include consultation, assessment, intervention and support in accessing community services; and may include a child or youth’s circle of care, such as caregivers, teachers, community service providers and identified caring adults. All services are provided by professional social workers registered with the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, and are available in all schools.  Services may be provided in person and/or virtually, via MS Teams.

To access Social Work Services please contact the Principal/Vice-Principal of your school or (905) 527-5092 ext. 2806.

Substance Misuse

Two Spirit and LGBTQiA+ Communities

  • AFFIRM: Is an eight-session Cognitive-Based Therapy informed treatment group specifically for Two Spirit and LGBTQIA+ youth to develop coping skills for anxiety and stress related to experiences of discrimination related to their sexual and gender identities. The goals of AFFIRM are to decrease unhelpful thoughts, feel better about yourself and lives, and to make healthy choices for sexual and mental health. Register online orgor contact dbyers@hwdsb.on.ca if you have any questions.
  • Speqtrum
  • LGBT Youth Line: peer support to LGBT youth, age 29 and under. Text and online chat.
  • Trans Lifeline Hotline: 1-877-330-6366. Peer support phone service run by trans people for our trans and questioning peers.
  • Tips for Supporting Yourself as a 2SLGBTQI+ Student
  • Transcend Youth Group and Transcend Caregiver Group: Transcend Youth Group and Transcend Caregiver Group are social and support groups for transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming and gender questioning children and youth from HWDSB schools and/or their caregivers. Group meetings are held once per month for two hours and are facilitated by peer leaders with lived experience. Transcend meetings are a welcoming environment which allows youth to develop social connections with others who share some aspect of their identity, so that they can help and support and learn from each other and from the facilitators.

Didn’t find what you were looking for?

  • Red Book Community Information by Hamilton Public Library provides trusted, up-to-date information about social services and community resources for residents of Hamilton. (905) 528-8127 or 211. Email wehelp@hwdsb.on.cafor more information.

HWDSB Helps posterHWDSB Helps is a free and anonymous way for students to find help for themselves and one another. Tips may relate to student mental health, bullying, substance use and more. When students, staff and families help promote a positive school environment, schools are safer and more welcoming places. The service receives anonymous messages and shares the report with staff who follow existing Board and school protocols. This is not a crisis line or counselling service.

HWDSB Helps priority during COVID-19: HWDSB Helps remains an operational service. However, we are prioritizing concerns related to COVID-19’s impacts on school communities during our closure under Ministerial Order. If a concern relates to school matters generally, we will respond when school is back in session. Thank you for your understanding.

Get help or share anonymous tips using…

  • Text to 905-963-0066. Standard rates apply.

  • The HWDSB Helps app for iOS and Android.

  • Web chat

  • In case of emergency, call 911.

If you have questions, please contact your school’s principal.

As a caring community, we are all shocked and saddened after a tragic event. These rare events can impact each of us differently. We may feel sadness, grief, helplessness, anxiety and anger. Whatever we feel is okay. When supporting a child or youth, please consider the following points.

Take care of your own feelings and needs

  • Adults have fears and worries too. It’s important that our feelings do not interfere with listening to children and youth, who must feel that adults are listening, are calm and are in control.
  • Take time to deal with your own reactions before speaking to a child or youth. If you are coping well, you can better offer children and youth your support.
  • If you are struggling, ask for help. Have someone else support children and youth while you care for yourself.
  • School boards can offer specialized support such as social workers and psychologists. Ask your school principal if you wish to speak with someone.

Help children and youth feel safe

  • Be calm, offer reassurance and explain how children and youth are in a safe place.
  • Limit media consumption, especially in elementary schools. Children struggle to distinguish between TV and reality. Limiting media exposure for older children can keep them from focusing too much on the crisis.
  • Discuss conflict resolution ideas and non-violent ways of solving problems.

Acknowledge & normalize feelings

  • People vary in their emotional responses. Feelings after traumatic events may include fear, loss of control, anger, loss of stability, isolation and confusion.
  • Accept these feelings. Allow children and youth to express their feelings. Emphasize that people are entitled to their own feelings and opinions unless it hurts someone else.
  • Let them know that their feelings are normal, expected and shared by many others.
  • Recognize feelings behind actions and put them into words. For example, “I can see you are feeling scared about this.”
  • Encourage children and youth to talk to you or another caring adult. Emphasize that you are there to help, and that they tell an adult if they feel, or a friend feels, overwhelmed.
  • Respect diverse responses. Some teens prefer to talk to adults – like parents or teachers – while others prefer to talk to friends.
  • Some people respond to stress with humour, some of which may be inappropriate or insensitive. This type of humour should not be encouraged or condoned. However, if this does occur, help the child or youth understand why the humour was inappropriate.

Be a good listener and observer

  • When children or youth ask questions, listen carefully and respond as appropriately and objectively as possible.
  • Let them guide you regarding their level of concern or desire for information.
  • When answering questions, stick to the facts. Don’t speculate about what could happen. If you don’t know the answer, don’t be afraid to say so.
  • Discuss events in terms that are appropriate to a child’s age and level of development.
  • You may need to continue discussions. Acknowledge new information as it is available.

Respond to changes in behaviour

  • Children and youth may respond differently to traumatic events, with forms that may include:
  • Preoccupation with violence (e.g. pretending to blow things up)
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Aggressive behaviour
  • Physical complaints (e.g. stomach aches and headaches)
  • Increase in or loss of appetite
  • Anxiety, sadness, withdrawal
  • Sensitivity to loud noises
  • Mood changes
  • Sleep disturbances

Identify children and youth who may be at risk

Most children and youth will be able to cope with their concerns about current events, with help from parents, teachers and other caring adults. Some children may be at risk of more extreme reactions due to personal circumstances. The most vulnerable children are those who:

  • Can directly relate to the tragic event.
  • Have friends or relatives in the affected areas.
  • Have experienced a recent death in the family.
  • Have a history of depression, anxiety disorders or other trauma.
  • Have recently come from a country where they experienced armed conflict.

Keep communication open between home and school

  • Be sure to reach out from home to school, and from school to home so that all adults know if a child is experiencing stress at school. Schools have resources that can help.

If you have concerns about your child or youth, help is available.

HWDSB staff can find resources to help support students by visiting the staff intranet We Help page.

If you are an HWDSB staff member seeking support, please contact our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) Lifeworks. Find more details are on the myHWDSB staff portal.

Updated on Friday, November 01, 2019.
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