More Mental Health Support In Primary Schools

26 November 2019

Primary school students facing mental health challenges will get the support they need, under a new $1.2 million early intervention and prevention pilot program being launched by the Andrews Labor Government.

Minister for Education James Merlino today announced a partnership with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) and The Ian Potter Foundation to trial a tailored mental health pilot in up to 10 primary schools.

This pilot will provide evidence-based training and resources to help school staff to better identify and respond to mental health issues affecting primary school students. The project will help schools build strong connections with community-based health and other services so students and families can be linked to these services as appropriate.

The pilot will be jointly funded by the Labor Government and The Ian Potter Foundation and will start in selected schools in the north-east of Melbourne and the Loddon Campaspe region from Term 1, 2020.

This additional support builds on the $51.2 million Mental Health Practitioners in Schools initiative and provide every Victorian government secondary school campus funding for a mental health practitioner by 2022.

From Term 1, 2020 a further 57 secondary school campuses will join the more than 50 schools already recruiting mental health practitioners such as psychologists, social workers and mental health nurses.

This next stage includes 39 secondary schools in north east Melbourne and 18 in Loddon Campaspe, including Castlemaine and Bendigo. The roll-out at schools in Barwon and Bayside Peninsula areas started earlier this year.

At full roll-out, the initiative will employ more than 190 qualified mental health professionals in more than 300 schools across the state who will provide student counselling and early intervention services, as well as coordinating support for students with complex needs, linking in with broader allied and community health services.

Every government secondary school campus will receive between one and five days a week of support from a mental health practitioner depending on its size and requirements.

The Labor Government established Australia’s first ever Mental Health Royal Commission because we know the current system isn’t coping. We will also implement every one of its recommendations. The commission will deliver an interim report this month, follow by a final report in October 2020.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Education James Merlino

“We’re ensuring our kids are happy and healthy, so they can focus on learning and have the best opportunity to succeed in education and life. Mental health among students is one of the biggest concerns raised with me by both parents and teachers – this is a first step in looking at what more we can do in our schools to address this issue.”

Quote attributable to Centre for Community Child Health at the MCRI Professor Frank Oberklaid

“Primary schools are an ideal platform from which to provide mental health services because virtually all children attend school and teachers are in an ideal position to identify children with emerging or existing mental health issues and help put in place effective early intervention strategies.”

Quote attributable to The Ian Potter Foundation Chair Charles Goode AC

“We are pleased to contribute $500,000 alongside the State Government towards this pilot project spearheaded by MCRI to address the mental health needs of young school children before problem behaviours become entrenched.”

Reviewed 19 August 2020

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