Mental health resource launched
A new resource aims to give teachers a creative way of teaching, thinking and talking about mood disorders, reports Darragh O Keeffe
Evidence suggests that most teachers feel uncomfortable and unprepared when helping students understand or deal with mental health issues like depression or mood disorders.
It’s for this reason that programs which educate teachers and equip them to confront these issues in the classroom are essential, according to Professor Helen Christensen, executive director of the Black Dog Institute.
Christensen was speaking to Education Review following the recent release of the institute’s newest resource for educators, the HeadStrong Program.
Using a series of cartoon images to convey complicated subjects to students, the program is also complemented by classroom activities and teacher development notes.
The program, which will be delivered to 1500 high school teachers through a training program over the next three years and is available free to download online, focuses on mood disorders, mental health and resilience.
The program was based on the institute’s existing school program and centres on increasing knowledge and understanding about depression, reducing stigma and creating improved resilience.
A pilot of the program in schools in Newcastle found 96 per cent of teachers felt it was easy to teach and a useful resource.
“The program is very visual, it’s built on illustrations that demonstrate the issues, so it has an immediacy you don’t normally get in school-based programs,” said Christensen, who is also a Professor of Mental Health at the University of NSW.
“It is about showing children that there are other children feeling the same as them, that there are a lot of burdens we all feel from time to time, and there are ways they can build strength within themselves to overcome them.”
Topics discussed include: teen challenges, mood disorder facts and statistics, at-risk personality types, coping strategies, fears of seeking help, finding the right help, the benefits of good therapy, family and school support and how to build resilience.
Christensen said the program was developed in line with the NSW personal development, health and physical education year 9-10 syllabus, but it will be tailored to other state and territory curricula requirements as it is rolled out nationally.
When asked how the program might align with the current development of the national curriculum, Christensen acknowledged there were a range of other programs covering mental health and wellbeing issues, which she said HeadStrong would complement.
“There a lot of different prevention programs for schools, and not all of them are aimed at the same thing. Some programs focus on social and emotional learning, more the resilience end, and you have a range of programs which are about preventing the development of mental disorder. This program sits in between the resilience building and prevention.”
The Black Dog Institute received a $500,000 grant from the nib foundation, which enabled it to deliver the resource and training.
The program will be rolled out in NSW this year, before expanding to Queensland in 2012. National implementation will be completed by 2014, the institute said.
It is estimated that one in five Australians will experience a mood disorder in their lifetime and up to 75 per cent of mental health issues emerge during adolescence.
To access the resources, go to: www.blackdoginstitute.org.au
Darragh O Keeffe