Entire school community benefits from mental health training

Mirboo North Secondary College has trained teaching staff in Youth Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) to build up a school program that aims to resource all senior students and their parents, so they may feel confidence in supporting their peers, while also breaking down stigmas around mental health.  

In 2017, Learning Specialist and Year 9 Coordinator Rebecca Woodall in conjunction with the Assistant Principal, held forums with Year 9 students to listen to their attitudes around their responses to the Student Attitudes to School and Resilient Youth Australia Surveys and hear their thoughts about the current school program. 

“One of the student’s said that it was really great that they could do their Level 2 First Aid Training, but wondered why they could not do Mental Health First Aid Training. They explained that they had a friend who had been having problems around mental health and they didn’t know how they could help them,” said Rebecca, who is also coordinator of the Community Challenge Program that facilitates learning opportunities such as life skills, First Aid and Duke of Edinburgh Awards. 

“Teachers were sent to a two day training course with Latrobe Regional Hospital, then those teachers conducted training sessions with the Year 9 and Year 11’s as part of their Community Breakout Program. Parents were also offered the opportunity to receive free MHFA training at the school, of which many took up,” said Rebecca, who says the course cost is usually $160 per person.  

The Teen MHFA course was conducted with students through 3 interactive classroom sessions of 75 minutes each. Then the Youth MHFA course was offered for interested parents, community members and other staff at the college during 4 weekly sessions on a Thursday evening.   

“This mean’t that we’d have the optimum chance of capacity building as students would be supported both at home, school and in the community,” said Rebecca. 

“ It was rewarding to see a number of parents take up the course, they said they loved that they were given the opportunity to develop skills and found it useful.” 

Students learnt how to recognise the signs of a developing mental health problem, to recognise the signs of a mental health crisis, particularly suicide and to get a responsible and trusted adult to take over as necessary.  

Students gained a deeper understanding of mental health issues and it has benefited not only their own personal wellbeing but puts them in a positive position for supporting themselves and their peers as they move into VCE and VCAL. 

It will help them as they move into the workforce and also in their involvement in the various community groups, such as sporting clubs. The skills and confidence they will gain could be seen as invaluable life long skills. 

“We felt it was important to bring this program into the school. These skills and tools empower them to manage relationships with their peers, building students strong enough to provide support or seek help from others,” said Rebecca. 

“By 2020, the entire senior student body from Year 9-12 will have received the MHFA training, which breaks down the stigmas around mental health, gives them confidence to check in with their peers and equips them with the knowledge of where they can access help if needed.” 

Rebecca Woodall