Whole school approach to mental health

The Centre and the University of Melbourne are developing a new program to help primary school teachers identify and support students’ mental health needs. The program will facilitate a whole school approach with evidence-based training and resources for teachers.

We know that over 8 percent of children aged 4-11 years have a diagnosed mental health disorder, and 20 percent of children experience mental health difficulties that inhibit their daily functioning. Schools represent a key location for promoting children’s good mental health, identifying signs and symptoms for those at risk of poor mental health, and supporting external referrals to community services for those students who require extra support.

In a study conducted by the Centre in March 2020, it was clear that teachers and school leaders have a deep concern for the mental health difficulties experienced by Victorian primary school students. Teachers reported that a number of their students experience anxiety. Teachers also had concerns around their own skills for accurately identifying and supporting children who need extra assistance for their mental health. While expressing enthusiasm to support their students’ mental health, teachers are feeling overwhelmed by the demands placed on them and are unanimously calling for a mental health specialist in every school.

In response to these needs, a new role is being piloted, designed to provide support for Victorian primary schools to promote students’ mental health. The pilot is being led by the Centre in partnership with the Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET).

The program, developed by the Centre and the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at The University of Melbourne, will provide structured and targeted training to teachers. The new role will:

  • facilitate a whole school approach to student mental health
  • embed evidence-based training and resources within their school
  • build workforce capacity by upskilling teaching and leadership staff
  • liaise with community-based services to ensure clear referral pathways for students who require additional support
  • provide additional support to classroom teachers.

The evidence-based training will begin with ten partner primary schools in term 3 2020 and within the DET’s North West region from August 2020.

This work is generously supported by Ian Potter Foundation, Ross Trust, Helen Macpherson Smith Trust, Bupa and Wolf Foundation.

Contact Simone Darling, Project Manager, to find out more.

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