From the President's Desk

A mental health professional in every Australian school?

Time for serious support

I recently attended the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Conference, where presenters shared their experiences of working with young people with mental ill-health. It was at once informative, confronting, scary, and inspiring.

Professionals are seeing a rapid increase in the number of young people presenting with mental health issues. In particular, anxiety and depression are becoming much more prevalent, and at a much younger age.

Primary school teachers and principals are acknowledging their lack of expertise in recognising symptoms of mental ill-health in their young students, and are calling upon governments to fund mental health professionals in every school. Early intervention at the primary school level would have a flow-on, positive effect on secondary school students, reducing incidences of extreme anxiety and depression in the secondary setting.

For some time now, ACSSO has worked with primary school principal groups from around the country to combat mental ill-health in young children. We will continue to do so.

The use of peer support workers, particularly with adolescents, has proved invaluable in some school settings. Peer workers are much easier for adolescents to relate to, and offer proof that recovery is an achievable reality. They provide hope.

Research presented to the conference showed that schools can have a huge, positive impact on wellbeing by deliberately fostering cultures which prioritise the mental health of students, teachers, and the whole school community. Those schools which are able to support students and families through accessing professional services and achieving diagnoses are experiencing better wellbeing outcomes for everyone in the school.