Supporting student mental health and wellbeing
The past 18 months have been dominated by uncertainty, isolation and disruption, forcing many people across the country to adapt their way of life. For parents and students, particularly for those living in states that have experienced multiple lockdowns, one major adjustment has been remote learning.
Students have had to undergo extended periods of isolation from their friends and teachers, leaving many parents concerned for their child’s wellbeing. Our latest survey of 500 Edstart customers found that almost half were worried that remote learning was having a negative impact on their child’s mental health and over half were concerned about the impacts of loneliness and less time with friends.
Impact of disruptions to students’ mental health and wellbeingDisruptions to our way of life has been a major source of anxiety among young people. Mission Australia’s most recent survey of young people aged 15–19 identified the top 2 biggest personal concerns of young people were education (34%) and mental health (17%).
These concerns of students were recently aired on Q&A in an episode dedicated to the issues facing Australian youth. The panel heard frustrations from Year 12 students, who feel isolated from decision-making and are struggling to stay motivated with one student telling the panel, “I have no idea what’s happening with my future… it’s really hard for Year 12 students because we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Not only have students become increasingly anxious in these uncertain times, but those seeking mental health support are facing setbacks as waitlists for mental health services for young people are longer than ever in some parts of the country.
Youth mental health services, like Headspace, can't keep up with growing demand, which for some distressed young people has led to 6 month wait times to get the help they need.
How schools are supporting studentsMany schools across Australia are taking a proactive approach to support the wellbeing of students, with many implementing different programs and initiatives to help students understand and manage their mental health and wellbeing.
Bringing wellness into the classroomSome schools have integrated wellbeing classes for students in conjunction with their academic studies.
Ipswich Girls’ Grammar operates a Life Skills program that aims to help students understand and manage their mental health and wellbeing. Weekly classes are run for students in year 7 and 8 that focus on personal growth and the development of a positive mindset, while fortnightly classes for years 9 to 12 aim to cultivate their independence and leadership, with particular focus on study skills and their future careers.
Similarly, Stuartholme School in Queensland has introduced wellbeing into the school’s curriculum. Their Wise Wellness lessons cover topics such as Self Awareness, Relationship Skills and Responsible Decision Making.
Turning the attention to supporting parentsParticularly in recent times, many schools are not just helping their students but they are focusing their attention on providing support to parents.
Scotch College in Melbourne started their 'Wellbeing during Remote Learning Webinar Series' to provide parents with advice and strategies to be able to help support their sons and maximise their wellbeing. The webinar series covers a range of topics including identifying signs of mental health struggles, moderating screen use and managing worries and anxiety.
Similarly, Stuartholme School implemented a bespoke wellbeing program known as ‘The Lab Project’, designed to engage parents and provide them with support and guidance on a range of topics. Parents are provided with tools and resources as well as access to workshops, live-streamed panel discussions and information sharing to help develop their capacity to support their daughters and optimise their potential.
Using online innovationSome schools are leveraging technology in innovative ways to positively engage and support students.
St Catherine’s Sydney has adopted ‘Ripple’, a web based app that measures student wellbeing. Students respond to questions around sleep, focus, stress, diet, happiness, connectedness, health and safety. The responses are used by wellbeing mentors to help to identify areas of concern from which relevant resources and strategies are provided to students. Ripple also gives mentors a baseline understanding of students’ wellbeing in order to check in on them.
Mentone Grammar is running online programs to promote the wellbeing of its school community, including online seminars on the relationship between good nutrition and mental wellbeing, and a free virtual bootcamp focusing on strengthening mind, body and spirit and to raise money for the mental health charity ‘R U OK?’
Other initiatives helping studentsKomodo is a startup providing schools with a software solution using student data and surveys to enable the visibility of student wellbeing, help schools devise effective wellbeing strategies and to allow at-risk individuals to be identified. It is designed to give students the opportunity and language to understand and talk about their own mental health and wellbeing and helps both teachers and students tackle any wellbeing issues before they spiral out of control.
Recently, The Australian Boarding Schools Association partnered with Komodo to help their schools develop effective wellbeing strategies, measure their effectiveness and create the best possible environment for students.
Now more than ever it is important we turn our attention to encouraging the wellbeing of students and promoting strategies to help them navigate through these uncertain times.