Following the success of a pilot program, every government school in Victoria is set to receive funding to employ a Mental Health and Wellbeing Leader by 2026, the state government has announced.
About 1800 primary schools will benefit from the program, which aims to support individual students and help teachers better identify and support at-risk students.
Wyndham Park Primary was one of 100 schools to trial the program and mental health and wellbeing coordinator David Gardner the expansion was a “fantastic thing for all schools”.
“It goes to show that there’s a role for these people in our schools, it’s not just certain schools in certain areas, it’s every school,” he said.
“Mental health doesn’t discriminate, it can affect anyone at any time.”
Mr Gardner said the mental health and wellbeing role is “hugely important”.
“We acknowledge that there’s a desperate need for mental health practitioners within schools to support students or young people in understanding what mental health is,” he said.
“Essentially one in seven children aged between four and seven experience a mental health condition in any given year.
“The need to address mental health concerns and break down the stigma of mental health really is certainly really important,” Mr Gardner said.
Mr Gardner believes that for many kids, teachers are some of the most trusted adults in their life.
“We try to provide teachers in our community support in understanding what mental health is, and recognising the signs when a student does have a mental health concern…and we can put things in place to support that young person,” he said.
Young people are less likely to seek support for mental health, Mr Gardner believes as many young students don’t understand what low mental health looks like.
“We do a lot of work around social and emotional learning but also…include the language around mental health and try to normalise that,” he said.
“So it’s not seen as…’oh you’ve got something wrong with you’.
“We try and normalise mental health in the same way that we normalise physical health,” he said.