IN what has been descibed as a “game changer” in mental health training, 100 students in Scone united together today at the end of a special journey.
The Year 10 pupils from Scone Grammar and Scone High School had just completed three days of invaluable Mental Health First Aid courses organised by the Where There’s A Will foundation.
The training was delivered by Senior Mental Health Clinician Geoff Ahern who works with Victorian Police in mental health and police response.
Mr Ahern has provided Mental Health First Aid training to more than 200 adults across the district over the past 12 months and said what the not-for-profit organisation is doing for the community is unlike anything he has ever witnessed.
“I’ve never seen a whole community approach like this anywhere in Australia,” he said.
“They are addressing mental health on multiple fronts – it’s really just incredible.”
The courses Mr Ahern has been rolling out across the Upper Hunter are unique in that they are aimed at teaching adults to recognise the signs and symptoms in youth.
He said the course that is delivered to Year 10 students is a condensed version aimed at that age bracket.
“We also talk about suicide which can be problematic particularly in rural areas," he said.
“Training the different age groups means that when they go home Mum and Dad know a little bit about mental health and know that it’s okay to talk about it.”
Where There’s A Will committee member Polly Yuille said the plan was to make the training a compulsory part of the curriculum from 2018.
“We are using this week as a pilot study with the intention that it becomes available to every Year 10 student at the five Upper Hunter high schools next year,” she said.
“Where There’s A Will is out talking to the community and they receive a lot of positive feedback, both online and anecdotal," Mr Ahern added.
On top of the Mental Health First Aid, students will register with Headspace in their classrooms next week.
“Headspace delivered some training to Upper Hunter students at the Merriwa Farm Safety Day a couple of months ago,” Polly Yuille said.
“But, there were a lot of kids unregistered and it’s a 20 minute long process.”
“That can be particularly stressful for someone that is in a crisis situation.
“So, what we are looking to do is get as many teenagers as possible pre-registered with Headspace so if they do need immediate assistance they can just login straight away.”
Ms Yuille said that the community approach to mental health has been a “game changer”.
“We have school leaders meeting on a regular basis every 6 to 8 weeks now,” she said.
“Nothing has brought them together like this before – not literacy, not numeracy.
“Mental health is the thing that is uniting them.”
Coordinator Pip Baker said it was important for the whole community to have a common language when it comes to mental health.
“My hope is that we inoculate everyone in this – if everybody is having the same training it is a lot more effective because we are all on the same page,” she said.
“Parents, teachers, coaches and everyone in a small community will all speak the same language.
“It gives the kids a safe place so that they know that all their friends and family can support them through anything – and that is half the battle.”
- Lifeline Australia: 13 11 14