Students from across the province will have more support for their social and emotional development, as well as access to valuable mental health services thanks to new provincial investments. Premier Darrell Dexter met with representatives from the Nova Scotia School Counsellors Association today, Aug. 14, to announce funding to increase the number of guidance counsellors, mental health clinicians and youth health centres in Nova Scotia schools. “Young people face many difficult issues, from mental health concerns to sexual violence and bullying behaviour. We’re making it a priority to ensure more resources are in place to support students and families,” said Premier Dexter. “This investment will ensure that students from every region of the province will have more access to people they can turn to when they need help, or if they need someone to talk to.” The funding increase will take effect starting next year. An additional $4.6 million will be targeted to school boards over three years to enable them to increase the number of guidance counsellors, beginning in the 2014-15 school year. Another $9.4 million will be allocated to hire mental health clinicians and youth health centre co-ordinators. “Any increase in guidance counsellor positions will give students better access to experienced professionals who can support their social and emotional needs,” said Teri Cochrane, president, Nova Scotia School Counsellors Association. “Having more guidance and counselling services will also increase the capacity to provide more proactive programs that support positive social interactions and emotional wellbeing.” Increasing the number of guidance counsellors is a key recommendation of the Nova Scotia Task Force on Bullying and Cyberbullying. The report, Respectful and Responsible Relationships: There’s No App for That, recommends that the province provide targeted funding to reach a ratio of one guidance counsellor for every 500 students from grades Primary to 12. “We know that students often go to guidance counsellors first when they need help, or when they are faced with bullying and cyberbullying,” said Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Ramona Jennex. “We’ve heard from principals, teachers, parents and students that they want better access to resources, and I’m looking forward to working with school boards to provide that support.” Youth health centres are very popular among students, especially at the high school level. “It is important for young people to talk to someone about their issues, especially around harmful situations like bullying and sexual violence,” said Marilyn More, Minister for the Action Team on Sexual Violence and Bullying. “This funding will help high school students in the province have better access to youth health centres, which are also excellent resources for guidance counsellors, teachers and parents.” Guidance counsellors provide counselling to students in the areas of personal, social, educational and career needs. Mental health clinicians, such as a psychologist, nurse, or social worker, identify students with mental health issues early, and work with teachers and staff to help address mild to moderate cases, while referring students with more significant challenges to the local mental health program.