Schools need help: report

“Seventy-five per cent of those who develop mental illness first experience symptoms before they turn 25.”- report chair Michael Brennan.

A PRODUCTIVITY Commission draft report recommending the appointment of “wellbeing leaders” for schools comes in the wake of two recent student deaths in South Gippsland.

The report found country students are more vulnerable to suicide than their city counterparts.

Across all age groups, the rate of rural suicides is 54 per cent higher than capital cities. 

The report, which will be used by the Federal Government as a basis for future policy, also reported that more than one-third of deaths among people aged 15 to 24 years are due to suicide.

Under the recommendations, wellbeing leaders would be responsible for “coordinating the work of the school wellbeing team, which can include a school psychologist, counsellor, social worker, school nurse, chaplain, local Aboriginal community leader or health worker, peer workers and others”.

“Seventy-five per cent of those who develop mental illness first experience symptoms before they turn 25, and mental ill-health in critical schooling and employment years has long lasting effects for not only your job prospects but many aspects of your life. Getting help early is key to prevention and better outcomes,” report chair Michael Brennan said.

“While full scale change will take a long time, there are many changes that governments can start now. For example, follow-up after attempted suicide is proven to save lives and could be started immediately.”

Over their lifetime, one in two Australians will be affected by mental ill-health including anxiety and depression and up to a million people don’t get the help they need, the report said.

Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien believes “great strides” have been made on the issue of addressing mental health concerns “but there is still a long way to go”.

“It’s so important that people keep talking to each other and that we check on our family and friends. RUOK doesn’t have to be something we only say once a year,” he said.

“There is certainly more that government can do, and while the Mental Health Royal Commission is a good initiative by this government, it must ensure it doesn’t wait to address important issues like youth suicide while waiting for recommendations.”

Locally, there is strong support from the within the school community for vulnerable students, along with workshops by organisations like The Man Cave, a preventative mental health and emotional intelligence program for boys, young men, parents and teachers.

Bass Coast Shire Council has sponsored the program locally for the past two years. Most recently it was embraced by Wonthaggi Secondary College Year 11 boys.

Following the workshop at Wonthaggi Secondary College, 91 per cent of the participants said they felt better equipped to talk about their emotions with others, while 97 per cent felt they better understood the negative impacts of not talking about their emotions and the pressures that men face in society.

  • Lifeline Crisis Hotline: 13 11 14.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=30290

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