VICTORIA -- Schools in British Columbia are getting an extra $2 million for mental health programs from the provincial government.

Judy Darcy, the minister of mental health and addictions, says the province is spending more on mental health programs this year because children are facing an unprecedented return to school.

She says a total of $3.75 million will be spent in the 2020-21 school year to promote mental wellness and provide additional support for students, families and educators.

The province says school districts will determine how the funds are used based on their needs.

The government says surveys have shown the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an increase in mental health and substance use challenges.

In a news release, it says there are a number of free and inexpensive counselling services that are available online, by video and by phone.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 2, 2020.