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How schools can improve student wellbeing

By Ben Madden

The impact of COVID-19 has highlighted the need to provide students with resources to help improve their mental health and wellbeing. It’s been an extremely difficult time to be a student, especially for those that are completing their Year 12 exams, and schools need to think about how they can best support their students - both through providing external people to speak to, as well as training for teachers to better assist students in times of need.

Why is mental health important in schools?

School should be a place for students to thrive and explore their interests, no matter what they may be. While COVID-19 has interrupted the last two years of education, it’s also highlighted the need for schools to provide care to their students so they can improve their mental and physical health. For teens who may be battling with anxiety and depression, or facing other mental health battles, school is where they spend a large part of their time, so it makes sense for schools to assist where they can.

In 2013-2014, it was estimated by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare that 14% of young people aged between 12-17 experienced a mental health disorder. Due to the global pandemic, this number has only risen, as students were isolated from their peers and teachers throughout 2020 and 2021. As things return to normal, it’s a prime opportunity for schools to expand the mental health resources they provide and give educational staff the opportunity to upskill.

What are the common mental health issues for youth?

anxious student during exams

While there are many mental health battles that students will face, the two main ones are anxiety and depression. It’s important to know what signs to look for in a student to recognise if they are in need of assistance.

1. Anxiety.

Anxiety can manifest itself as a sense of nervousness or stress, especially in situations where things can and may go wrong – like during end-of-year exams. Symptoms of anxiety include faster heartbeat/breathing, tense muscles, sweaty palms and trembling. 

If you can see these symptoms in students, it’s important to speak to them about how they’re feeling, as well as provide them with things like breathing exercises and opportunities to discuss their concerns. Directing them to other people that can help can reduce the stigma around speaking to a professional about mental health struggles.

2. Depression.

Depression can cause students to lose interest in their surroundings and activities, which can reflect itself in the way students engage (or no longer engage) in classroom activities. It can cause emotional, functional and physical problems, and while it affects people in different ways, it’s important to look out for the signs. Peer pressure and academic expectations can cause depression, especially if students are feeling isolated.

Talking to students about their feelings can help reveal symptoms of depression, especially if they talk about feeling a loss of hope, sadness or anger. If students are experiencing depression, it’s important to allow them to properly express their feelings and provide them with resources/people they can speak to. Having proper mental health training means that educators are a lot more likely to be able to manage conversations about depression/anxiety with students.

How to improve mental health in schools

Improving mental health in schools can be as simple as providing the right training to teachers. The CHC43315 - Certificate IV in Mental Health course is a great way to equip teachers with the ability to improve their own understanding of mental health, as well as educate those around them about how mental health can affect people in different ways. When students feel heard, they’re a lot more likely to respond positively to the efforts of educators, and this course provides teachers with the framework to do so.

high school teacher speaking with student

The course provides those who enrol with practical experience facilitated by specialist trainers, allowing teachers to simulate conversations with students. While theory is beneficial, it’s no match for job-specific training, especially as student personalities can differ greatly. Once educators have completed the course, they’re immediately ready to apply their learnings and help the students they work with on a daily basis. 

It can also be extremely beneficial to have an on-campus counsellor, so students are able to talk to a professional at any time of the day. A counsellor is able to work with students and get to know them on a personal level, giving them access to a mental health professional that they can talk with confidentially. It’s an excellent way to ensure you’re caring for your students’ mental health needs, especially if it’s something that they might not otherwise talk about elsewhere due to external circumstances.

Looking for some mental health training? 

If you’re looking to complete some mental health training or add to any existing training you might have previously completed, then Upskilled is here to help. We offer a range of courses within the mental health space including our CHC43315 - Certificate IV in Mental Health or CHC51015 - Diploma of Counselling. 

Want to know more about how mental health training can benefit both you and your students? Get in contact with Upskilled’s education consultants on 1300 009 924 to speak about what training could be right for you!
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