If we as a nation are to combat youth depression and bring up thriving, robust young people, we must take a proactive approach and integrate mental health programs in all aspects of school life.
Positive psychology has been a key focus at Knox Grammar School over the past six years. While mainstream psychology often focuses on people who already suffer from mental health issues, positive psychology aims to proactively increase mental resilience. It can play a crucial preventive role in reducing depression, anxiety and stress within the school environment.
The program aims to equip students with “total fitness” (so they are academically, socially, physically and spiritually “fit”) to ensure that they perform at their very best and are more resilient to the stresses they may encounter as teenagers and young adults, such as relationship challenges and academic pressures.
At Knox, students receive one-on-one mentoring from a teacher trained in positive psychology and total fitness. That mentor will stay with the student throughout their time at the school, building a close relationship with the student and his parents. All our staff, including our sports coaches, also receive training in positive psychology to encourage a positive culture in every aspect of school life.
Of course, positive psychology is no quick fix to solving young people’s mental health problems. However, by tackling mental health in a proactive way, we can help our students build defences to weather the turbulent storm of life as an Aussie teen. John Weeks is headmaster of Knox Grammar School, Wahroonga.
This article first appeared The Age, 3 March 2015.