To establish the feasibility and short-term impact of implementing a novel curriculum in a linguistically and geographically isolated francophone community to enhance elementary schoolchildren's (Grades 1 to 7; n = 158) knowledge and attitudes regarding mental health.
The project team developed a curriculum that covered expected emotional development, depression, anxiety disorders, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder to be delivered by the school's usual teachers. Committee members led focused discussions (Grades 1 to 7) and administered evaluation questionnaires (Grades 4 to 7) surveying students' knowledge and attitudes before and after implementation.
Teachers were enthusiastic about the project. Parents were initially skeptical, but post hoc interventions by school staff secured participation consent for 98% of the students. Baseline data (Grades 4 to 7) revealed little knowledge and some negative attitudes regarding mental illnesses; postprogram data indicated improved knowledge and suggested improved attitudes.
The project was made feasible by the high degree of involvement of local community members. Children's (Grades 4 to 7) mental health awareness and understanding was enhanced by the curriculum. Effects on help-seeking behaviour and case identification have yet to be assessed.