A growing body of research has shown that schools are struggling under the weight of worsening student mental health issues.
A recent nationwide study of teachers revealed a staggering 98% said poor mental health negatively impacts on their students’ ability to succeed at school, but less than half of all respondents felt well-equipped to respond to mental health issues in their students, with lack of school resources (time/staff/space) cited as the primary challenge (42%).
Yesterday, the Australian Government became the first to launch a National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy in a move that marks a “fundamental, cultural shift” in approaches to improving the mental health and wellbeing of Australia’s youth.
The launch of the Strategy – developed by the National Mental Health Commission – comes as states and territories ramp up mental health support for young peoples impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, while the pandemic has certainly dealt a blow to the mental health of young people, new research shows there are many other systemic factors at play that contribute to mental health staff burnout, and often leave young people with nowhere to turn to when they're most in need.
The study, by the Centre for Social Impact (CSI) and Zurich Financial Services, found prevention and early intervention represents the “best tool for reducing mental health impacts on individuals and costs and service delivery burdens on the mental health system”, in contrast with the current focus on high-cost crisis care services.
CSI researcher Kelly Clark said the research reinforces what is already largely known: spending time building relationships leads to positive outcomes.
“As principals, you know that your relationship with staff and parents, with students, and with others in your community leads to better outcomes for all, especially your students,” Clark told The Educator.
“It’s likely that positive, healthy relationships also help you feel – not just be – more effective. Working with others within our local and school communities will lead to better mental health outcomes for students and advocating together for funding which allows the time to build those relationships is key.”