Healthy relationships? Healthy teens

Effectively navigating adolescence – with all its challenges, disappointments and opportunities – is tricky for everyone. Abuse, violence and neglect make growing up even harder for so many of the young people that seek help at CAMH.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And, it’s easier to prevent than to treat. So says Dr. David Wolfe, who specializes in child and youth mental health at CAMH. As the RBC Chair in Children’s Mental Health, Dr. Wolfe leads a team of experts working to teach children and youth an essential skill that’s not yet part of the standard school curriculum: the Fourth ‘R’, with ‘R’ standing for relationships.

At CAMH’s Centre for Prevention Science in London, Ontario, Dr. Wolfe and his colleagues collaborate with psychologists, teachers and school officials, to implement and test their Fourth ‘R’ program, an educational initiative that teaches high-school students healthy ways to cope with bullying, peer pressure, violence and their negative consequences. Role-play and active teaching methods help youth learn practical skills for building healthy relationships and how to make safer choices.

“All abuse is preventable because a large part of it is due to lack of education and awareness, lack of alternative models,” explains Dr. Wolfe.

Mounting evidence, from research conducted by Dr. Wolfe and others, shows that early intervention and treatment can significantly reduce harmful outcomes for children who show signs of aggression; and education and communication are essential tools for preventing the abuse of children, women and misuse of prescription and street drugs.

The Fourth 'R' curriculum and approach to teaching, first piloted at Thames Valley District School Board in London, is now used in over 450 schools across seven provinces. Interest in the program continues to grow from school districts outside of Canada eager to introduce this innovative, evidence-based approach to help reduce violence and risk-taking among youth.

“The Fourth ‘R’ approach, which uses realistic role-playing simulations, teaches youth how to negotiate pressure situations and build strong relationships, because adolescence is full of risky situations that require responsible choices,” said Dr. Wolfe.

Tips for parents on building healthy relationships with teens

Learn more about the Fourth ‘R’ program

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health Foundation

Charitable Number:

100 Stokes Street, 5th Floor
Bell Gateway Building
Toronto, ON M6J 1H4

Toll-Free: 1.800.414.0471
Telephone: 416.979.6909
Fax: 416.979.6910


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