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Student Mental Health

What is mental health?

Student health and well-being is fundamental to the Geraldton Grammar School community. Mental Health is defined at Geraldton Grammar School as a continuum, ranging from having good mental health to having a mental illness. A person will vary in their position along this continuum at different points in their life. A young person with good mental health will feel in control of their emotions, have good cognitive functioning and positive interactions with their peers, parents and teachers. This state allows a young person to perform well in their studies and in family and other social relationships (Kelly et al, 2016).

How common are mental health issues in children and adolescents?

The Mission Australia Youth Survey is Australia’s largest online youth survey for young people aged 15 to 19. It gives young people a platform to ‘speak up’ about issues that are of real concern to them. Results from the 2018 survey show a 10% increase in concerns around mental health and overall the report shows the top three issues of personal concern are:

1. Coping with stress (43%)

2. School or study problems (35%)

3. Mental health (31%)

Mental health issues are common and there should be no stigma attached to prevention programs, early intervention strategies or treatment programs.

Prevention

Geraldton Grammar School pastoral care programs, INSPIRE in primary and Personal Development Program in secondary school, as well as the Health and Physical Education curriculum provide opportunity for prevention. These programs combined with our positive school culture provide a supportive environment to build resilience. Our parents are key partners in support of our school programs. The Student Wellbeing Officer provides support to all year groups through the pastoral care programs.

Early Intervention

The best chance of preventing mental disorders or providing early intervention to minimise the impact of mental illness across the lifetime is during childhood. Untreated disorders in childhood significantly increase the social and economic costs to the individual and the community later in life.

For adolescents, mental illness is a significant risk factor for not completing secondary school and subsequent study or employment. It is also a risk factor for longer term mental and physical health outcomes, as well as impacting on their families, friends and others around them.

Student Referral Protocol

At Geraldton Grammar School, our Student Referral Protocol provides a reference for our staff to take action to support our children and adolescents with respect to student mental health and wellbeing issues. The overarching principle is the acknowledgement many students require support due to circumstances in their life and that school staff should not work beyond their professional expertise regarding student mental health issues. The school, at all stages in the Student Referral Protocol, will support the actions of the relevant health care professionals, parents and the needs of the individual student. This may include support in implementing a Care, Treatment and Personal Management Plan in consultation with the student, referring body, parent and other school staff.

Student Referral Protocol


Treatment and support

There is no “one size fits all” approach to mental health services. There are many different types of treatment and supports that can help child and adolescents with their mental health issues.

What is depression?

Most people experience sadness or feel low from time to time, however, depression is more than just a low mood. For some people having these feelings intensely, for long periods of time (weeks, months or even years) and sometimes without any apparent reason is a serious condition that affects their physical and mental health.


What is anxiety?

Everybody experiences anxiety at some time. When people describe their anxiety, they may use terms such as: anxious, stressed, wound up, nervous, on edge, worried, tense or hassled. Anxiety can vary in severity from mild uneasiness through to a terrifying panic attack. Anxiety disorders differ from regular anxiety in the following ways:

  • It is more severe
  • It is long-lasting
  • It interferes with a person’s studies, other activities and family and social relationships.

What are eating disorders?

Eating disorders are not just about food, weight, appearance or will power but are serious and potentially life-threatening illnesses.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) recognises four eating disorders: Anorexia Nervosa, Bulimia Nervosa, Binge Eating Disorder and Other Specified Feeding and Eating Disorders.
In Australians aged, 11-24 approximately 28% of males are dissatisfied with their appearance compared to 35% in females. This dissatisfaction together with other factors such as depression and anxiety may trigger an eating disorder. This issue, however, is complex and requires support from professionals and family members.


What is psychosis?

Psychosis is a severe mental disorder in which thought and emotions are so impaired that contact is lost with external reality. This disorder is less common than other mental illness, affecting around 0.45% of people. This mental disorder includes schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, psychotic depression, schizoaffective disorder and drug-induced psychosis.

Resources and Contacts for Young People

At School:

Classroom teacher, home group teacher or Head of School - initial discussion and then referral to Student Wellbeing Officer and other outside agencies.
Many of our teachers have Youth Mental Health First Aid training.

Student Wellbeing Officer, Mrs Lara Watson has an office in the school library and is available Monday through Thursday. She can be contacted by calling the school on 9965 7800 or email wellbeing@gegs.wa.edu.au

You can read more on the Wellbeing Policy and the External supports available to students document, both on the Policies & Documents page.


References:

Mission Australia’s 2018 Youth Mental Health Report

Sir David Martin Foundation - www.sdmf.org.au

Australian Government Department of Health - http://www.health.gov.au