Bringing Mental Health Services To Schools In Australia
In Australia, there’s a growing buzz around the provision of mental health services in schools. While having a counsellor on hand to guide children along their path of self-discovery and to help them grapple with the unique challenges they may be facing is common, these services now go far beyond the provision of a friendly confidante.
Given the complexity of the school environment and the new issues that we’re identifying in these settings, providing students with professional mental health support, including expert-led emergency psychosocial support during times of tragedy, is of vital importance.
The role of the school in mental healthcare
Nowadays, schools aren’t just institutions where children are educated and sent off into the big, scary world – they’re also a place where problematic or concerning behaviour is identified and treated, especially with the aid of mental health services.
It is for this reason that we believe that schools form the first line of defence for children grappling with mental health issues.
At a time when 1 in 7 school children suffer from mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and other behavioural problems and approximately 50% of all serious mental health issues in adulthood begin around the age of 14, it’s crucial that children receive the support they need to grow without the influence of maladaptive behaviours and thought patterns.
Given that children spend a significant amount of time every day in school, it’s easier for teachers, who spend hours on end with them, to identify any troubling signs, especially in the classroom or in the playground.
How can schools ensure that a child’s mental health needs are being met?
One of the primary aims of mental health services within schools is to educate teachers and other officials at schools to recognise signs of mental health or mood and behavioural issues. Given that help can only be extended when a problem is detected, this type of awareness among educators makes all the difference.
While this is the first, crucial step, it has to be followed up with concrete action. The child in question needs to receive mental health support, ideally from a professional situated within the school environment; perhaps someone the child may be familiar with. This helps children feel more comfortable opening up and speaking about their problems.
Certain mental health services, as mentioned, also include emergency response and treatment in the wake of traumatising events or tragedies including accidents, deaths within the school community, natural disasters and other similar events.
Here, psychosocial support is extended to anyone who may be deeply affected and needs community support to process their feelings in a healthy way.
Mental health services in special needs schools
This is another important facet of providing children and educators mental health support in Australia. Children with disabilities or special needs may require the same or, perhaps, even more mental health support compared to regular schools and this area of care is one that is developing across the country.
This is because growing up with a disability, especially during such an important and formative stage of life, can be an isolating experience. Psychologists and psychiatrists may need to be familiar with the particular difficulties children with these challenges face.
Leverage the support of expert-led mental health services in schools in Australia
Unlike the past, when discussions of mental health were confined to hushed whispers, we’ve accepted that experiencing these types of conditions are common and need to be treated with compassion and support.
Schools are where a child is exposed to all kinds of stimuli, both pleasant and unpleasant. It is more probable, therefore, that they display certain signs indicating that they need help within these environments. With mental health services on hand in schools, children can now get the guidance they need and progress towards leading healthy and fulfilling lives.