Mental health support needed for students

9 December 2020|Community News, Lifestyle| Off Comments off on Mental health support needed for students|

IN the final weeks of the school year, the outstanding efforts of students over the last few months must be acknowledged.

Thanks to incredibly hardworking teachers, students for the most part, have shown resilience and flexibility in adapting to the changes that have taken place this year.

School should be a reassuring place of familiarity and belonging for students, but increasingly, students are becoming anxious and worried about their future.

Mental health and wellbeing is vital for learning and life.

Children who are mentally healthy learn, benefit from life experiences, and have stronger relationships with family members, school staff and peers.

However, when a student needs help there are not enough school psychologists, social workers and counsellors to give support.

Students are falling through the cracks which leads to poor learning outcomes, behavioural issues like bullying and sadly, youth suicide.

Local parent and school association member Earle Patman said mental health issues not only impact individual students, but spread into the school.

“Mental health issues can come out as behavioural issues because young people can’t always voice what they are uncomfortable with and learning outcomes for the whole class are compromised,” he said.

“Because of a lack of funding and a lack mental health workers in schools, teachers have to take over that role.

“They do the best they can, but they’re not trained, and it means they spend less time teaching.”

Member for Elwick Josh Willie said investment into mental health at an early age would improve learning outcomes and help to prevent the development of more acute mental health issues.

“Concerns about gaps in mental health support services for young people in Tasmanian schools predate COVID-19,” he said.

“The mental health of our children must be a top priority – it is one of the biggest issues raised with me when I talk to young people, parents and teachers.”

In Tasmania right now, there are around 60,000 students, but only 70 psychologists and 79 social workers, meaning there is about 900 students for every one psychologist.

Mr Willie has developed a policy that will see recruitment of mental health workers to all Tasmanian state primary and high schools.

“As a teacher and parent, this is a matter that I am serious about addressing,” Mr Willie said.

“We owe it to our kids.”

The Mental Health Workers for Tasmanian Schools policy will ensure Tasmanian students have access to specialist mental health support by employing a range of mental health professionals such as social workers, youth workers or psychologists.

Good mental health provides a solid foundation for managing the transition to adolescence and adulthood, engaging successfully in education and having a happier life.

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