School Services and Supports for Mental Health - Part 2

Last time we looked at the national survey which showed that one Australian child in 7 had a mental health problem in the previous 12 months, and the negative impact this had on attendance, performance, and satisfaction with school.

At St John Paul II Catholic College we are acutely conscious of this impact and we work to address it in several ways.

Firstly, we educate for wellbeing, particularly in the PDHPE curriculum, but also through Learning Enrichment, pastoral care days, reflection days and retreats, and through various talks and events such as RUOK day. We work to increase positive relationships using restorative practices and to reduce bullying using the method of shared concern.

Secondly, we respond when mental health concerns emerge. Around the country some 40% of young people with a mental health problem were advised by a school staff member to get some help. Among 12-17-year-olds, 14% (about 1 student in 7) used a school service for emotional or behavioural problems in the previous 12 months, including 11% who received individual counselling, and 3% received group counselling or participated in a support program.

At St John Paul II Catholic College about 14% of students attended individual counselling in each of the past few years, and about half of them were referred by school staff.

Nationally, teachers and other school staff provided a fifth of students with informal support for emotional and behavioural problems. This was two-and-a-half times higher (51%) for students assessed as having a mental disorder.

Our Stage Teams at school provide a great deal of this support, along with other senior staff, individual teachers, learning support staff, teacher mentors, and office staff who assist sick students with emotional upsets as well. Our stage teams (and some office staff) have been trained in Youth Mental Health First Aid and adolescent development.

In Australia just over one fifth of young people who used health services provided by GPs, paediatricians, psychologists and psychiatrists had been referred by their school.

Quite often here at St John Paul we discuss with parents/carers our concerns about students and suggest referrals to these kids of professionals. With parent/carer agreement we liaise with outside professionals to coordinate care, and we can also make referrals to the family therapists and teacher consultants in Catholic Education’s Student Services Team.

We do all this first and foremost because we care about people. The flow-on effect of this pastoral care is better attendance, better performance, and more enjoyment of school!

Reference: http://youngmindsmatter.org.au/survey-results/school-services/

On this website there is advice on sources of information and support (Current families > Counselling).

Martin Graham

School Counsellor