Helping high schools navigate mental health issues
Young people in NSW with complex mental health issues are set to be better supported thanks to a training program being rolled out to high school staff.
The Project Air Strategy for Schools is a collaborative project between the NSW Department of Education, NSW Ministry of Health and the Project Air Strategy team at the University of Wollongong. It provides evidence-based resources and training to school counselling staff, teachers and other interested school staff on how to identify and respond to young people who are experiencing complex mental health issues including self-harm and suicidal behaviours.
Young people who have a history of trauma, who are showing early signs of personality disorder, or are struggling with identity, relationships and emotions will also be supported by the program.
NSW Mental Health Commissioner John Feneley said the initiative embodies the kind of cross-government collaboration that is vital to improving mental health in NSW.
“Both education and health services have a role to play in keeping our kids mentally well, but neither can do it alone,” Mr Feneley said.
“The Project Air Strategy for Schools is a fantastic early-intervention initiative that will see young people better supported in their day-to-day lives and reduce their need for acute, crisis care.
“We know three quarters of mental illness has its onset before the age of 24, so prevention and early intervention initiatives such as this are vital.”
In a presentation to NSW Mental Health Commission staff on 5 April, Dr Michelle Townsend of the Project Air Strategy said the program commenced in NSW public high schools in 2016, with training delivered to 290 senior psychologists, school counselling staff and School-Link coordinators. The roll out is continuing in 2017, including ‘train the trainer’ sessions. Program evaluation is ongoing.
All schools can access free resources on the Project Air Strategy’s website, including fact sheets on mental health issues and available treatments; guidelines for how to assist students and parents; and tools such as a template care plan.
The Project Air Strategy for Schools is part of the larger Project Air Strategy for Personality Disorders, which aims to enhance treatment options for people with personality disorders and their families and carers. Learn more at the Project Air Strategy for Personality Disorders website.