Home' Aurora : Aurora November 2014 Contents 13
www.mn.catholic.org.au Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
Liz Douglas is Co -ordinator - Student
Wellbeing at the Catholic Schools Office,
Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. Here she
reflects on the outcomes of a national sur vey
highlighting the views of young people.
Ever y year Mission Austr alia carries out
research asking students about their values
and concerns. A total of 14,461 young
people aged 15 to 19 year s responded to
Mission Australia's Youth Sur vey 2013.
The top four values for these young
people were :
1. Friendships (other than family)
2. Family and r elationships
3. School or study satisfaction
4. Physical and mental health.
The top three concerns for 15-19 years :
1. Coping with stress
2. School or study problems
3. Body image.
Around one in five respondents were either
ex tremely concerned or very concerned
about depression and family conflict.
(Mission Australia National Sur vey of Young
Australians 2013). I'm not surprised by the
results and cer tainly find that the values
students share are promising, given the
impor tant role positive relationships and
schools can play in developing mental health
Most young people are happy and well
adjusted. However, around 25% are at
risk of developing a mental health disorder,
par ticularly anxiety or depression, by the
age of 18. So the concerns for young people
expressed in this sur vey are realistic.
Wellbeing, mental health and resilience are
complex concepts and come with many
definitions which var y depending
on different cultural, spiritual and
The World Health Organisation recognises
"There is no health without mental health"
(2008). People often associate mental
health with illness; depression and anxiety
for example. However, mental health is a
positive concept and, just like physical health
and social health, mental health needs to
be promoted and suppor ted. In terms of
physical health, we encour age children to
exercise, get outdoor s and play spor t for
example. In ter ms of mental health, we
want to encour age our children to think
optimistically and to learn how to manage
stress in a positive way.
Dr Toni Noble is an award-winning
co-author of 'Bounceback' a classroom
resilience progr am. She describes resilience
as the ability to cope with or bounce back
from adversity: "The capacity to adapt to
difficult situations and consequently lear n
from these experiences".
Why a wellbeing focus in schools?
"Student safety and wellbeing are enhanced
when students feel connected to their
school, have positive and respectful
relationships with their peer s and teachers,
feel confident about their social and
emotional skills and satisfied with their
learning experiences at school." (Noble,
McGrath et al 2008).
Schools are ideally placed to foster the
wellbeing of children and young people.
It is wher e they gather for a large par t of
their time and it is wher e the key adults in
their lives, parents and teacher s, can focus
on suppor ting positive peer relationships,
THE STUDENTS SAY
The KidsMatter mental health framework was launched recently at Corpus
Christi Primary,Waratah.To see more photos, please visit www.mn.catholic.edu.au.
foster the social and emotional intelligence
of young people and make connections
to suppor ts such as specialist lear ning
suppor t teachers and school counsellors.
At school, children and young people can
learn the ever yday skills needed to negotiate
and cope with r elationships and gain the
resilience to manage the normal ups and
downs of school life; for example, friendship
issues and exam stress.
There is now much research that suppor ts
the impor tant role schools play in improving
and developing student mental health. Many
schools now look at programs and initiatives
that can suppor t and guide them in
promoting the mental health and wellbeing
of staff and students. Studies have also
identified the strong link between student
mental health and better learning outcomes.
For example, primar y schools that effectively
follow the KidsMatter Mental Health
Initiative have improved students' NAPLAN
results by 6 months to Year 7 (Dix, K. 2011).
How can parents assist schools in
promoting a positive culture for wellbeing?
Be positively engaged in school life.
Talk positively about school to your
Work with the school staff in
creating the best outcomes .
The past decade has seen a surge in suppor t
programs to assist schools in developing
student mental health and some of these
initiatives are listed below. This work around
wellbeing, suppor ting positive relationships
and fostering resilience is cer tainly in line
with what young people see as most
valuable for them. It also addresses those
greatest concer ns as highlighted by the
Mission Australia sur veys.
For further information see :
KidsMatter initiative for primary schools:
National Safe Schools Framework:
MindMatters initiative for secondary
schools: ww w.mindmatters.edu.au
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