Supporting Mental Health in Edmonton’s Inner City Schools


All in for Youth is nearing the end of its first year in five pilot school sites in Edmonton’s inner city: St Alphonsus Elementary, John A McDougall Elementary, Delton Elementary, Spruce Avenue Junior High and Eastglen Senior High School.

All in for Youth provides wraparound services for at-risk children and youth. Broadly, this means supplementing areas in a young person’s life that present an obstacle to their success in school. Says United Ways’ Community Investment Specialist Annette Malin:

By addressing the barriers in their lives, we aim to support students to stay engaged so that they can complete their education, and set their course for a life free from poverty.

When it comes to mental health, there are three types of full time staff that All in for Youth provides to help address the full range and degree of student needs. The staff all come from another project partner, The Family Centre, and are on the ground daily building relationships with the children and youth in the schools they serve. All in for Youth uses a resiliency framework to identify children who need help and determine what level of attention will help them succeed. The word we hear Annette use a lot is intentional. Program staff work incredibly hard to target needs and gaps and to collaborate among staff and partners to deliver individualized care with a purpose.

Success Coaches

In other words, as Annette Malin terms their work, “counselling-lite.” Success coaches attend to students who do not need intensive therapy, but who still benefit from an increased level of support at school. If a young person is feeling down or like their mood is interfering with their ability to participate in class, the student can leave class and go down the hall to spend time with a success coach until they feel they can be productive. Having a dedicated staff member for students to go to, and allowing students the freedom to seek help at any point in their school day, frees up teachers to dedicate class time to students who are ready to learn and is a valuable resource to ensure all needs are met. The relationship with a success coach sometimes begins before a youth even starts at an All in for Youth school. Eastglen High School leads tours and summer camps that connect at-risk Grade 9’s with the program and success coaches in order to foster trust and to get a head start on providing individualized attention.

When families are struggling, they often lack funds or connections to get them the help they need. All in for Youth brings together programs and services in a new way to help every child achieve their very best. The Family Centre of Northern Alberta

Posted by United Way of the Alberta Capital Region on Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mental Health Therapists

The All in for Youth mental health therapists work with a smaller caseload of students who need extra attention to put them on the path to success. Many of the students that the therapists see have suffered trauma in the past. Research has shown us that trauma negatively impacts the developing brain and, without support, hardwires it for a life of physical, emotional and social problems.  A therapist on site is valuable because they are present when their students become highly distressed or alarmed. Rather than having to wait for a weekly appointment (if a child is lucky enough to have been referred to one), the school’s mental health therapist is part of the school environment and can go sit with the student under their desk or in a stairwell. The student can get help calming down before the problem gets worse, and they can slowly learn to cope with trauma. Additionally, the program’s mental health therapists can offer resources for teachers who don’t have the training to know how to respond, or even to help teachers attend to their own self-care.

Roots and Wings

Research shows that family-centered care is essential for long-term success in mental health care pathways. Roots and Wings staff act as a bridge into the community, reaching out to families who seem to be struggling to help them establish a solid foundation from which their children can flourish. Roots and Wings provides in-home family support to Edmonton and area families struggling with parenting and family disruption due to poverty, mental health, or isolation. The comprehensive approach they take to supporting children, parents, families, and communities helps prevent family breakdown and child mistreatment, while empowering family members to better cope with life’s challenges, and make decisions that promote health and wellness.