Research Therapies — 09 June 2017

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Beyondblue’s “revolutionary” school mental health program is set to be rolled out from next year, with federal health minister Greg Hunt confirming a $52.7 million grant to the campaign.

The aim of the program is to revolutionise the way mental health support and education is handled in education facilities, including new and effective strategies.

The program is set to be launched into early learning services, primary and secondary schools across the country in partnership with Early Childhood Australia (ECA) and the national youth mental health foundation headspace in 2018.

The first stage of developing and designing the “ground-breaking initiative” will begin on July 1.

With research showing one in seven Australian children has had a mental health disorder in the past 12 months beyondblue chair Jeff Kennett described the program as a game-changer that would replace the currently fragmented approach with a wholly integrated one.

“Our vision is to create resilient early childhood and school communities where every child, adolescent, principal, teacher, worker, parent and guardian can achieve their best mental health,” Mr Kennett said.

“We will build on the best bits of existing Commonwealth programs, but give early childhood services and school communities a contemporary program that reflects the world in which they operate,” beyondblue chief Georgie Harman added.

“It will deal with the gamut of issues, from educating staff about mental health and how to protect themselves, to supporting schools to implement their own strategies for mental health, wellbeing, suicide prevention and crisis support.”

Ms Harman said the joint work between headspace, beyondblue and ECA would ensure the provided resources would be effective throughout the schooling system.

“We will bring together the best minds from across the mental health and education sectors to build a contemporary national child and youth mental health program with the aim of helping everyone reach their full potential academically, emotionally, socially and in later life,” she said.

beyondblue has been involved in the education sector for almost a decade through its KidsMatter (early childhood and primary) and MindMatters (secondary) programs, which operate in half of all Australian schools and will continue until the new initiative is launched.

ECA chief executive Samantha Page said it was critical to involve early learning in the program as it provides a window of opportunity for early intervention and prevention.

“Early childhood is when social skills, emotional skills and cognitive skills are developing, laying the foundations for mental health and wellbeing,” Ms Page said.

“This, in turn, influences a child’s ability to make successful life transitions, and to learn and progress at school.”

headspace chief Jason Trethowan said the new program would help improve student understanding of mental health and continue to support school communities impacted by youth suicide.

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