Mental health help in schools

By Benalla Ensign

The state government is rolling out mental health professionals in Victorian government schools to give students the support they need and help reduce the number of young Victorians tragically taking their own lives.

Sadly Benalla has seen an alarming number of young people driven to suicide in recent years — and many in the community have been calling for more support and improved access to mental health professionals.

Premier Daniel Andrews, Education Minister James Merlino and Mental Health Minister Martin Foley announced the first schools that would receive support under the Mental Health Practitioners in Schools initiative, last week.

The $51.2 million program will start in 33 secondary schools in term three in Melbourne’s south-east suburbs — from Albert Park College to Frankston High.

In term four, it will expand to 21 secondary school campuses in the state’s south west — from Geelong High School through to Colac Secondary College.

At this stage it has not been announced when the initiative will be rolled out in the state’s north east.

The program will employ more than 190 qualified mental health professionals across the state, including psychologists, social workers and mental health nurses.

The mental health practitioners will offer counselling and early intervention services, as well as coordinating support for students with complex needs, linking in with broader allied community and health services.

Every government secondary school will receive between one and five days a week of support from a mental health practitioner depending on its size, requirements and existing welfare programs.

The state government will also partner with the Orygen National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health to promote student wellbeing within secondary schools.

This program builds on the government’s $65.5 million investment in student health and wellbeing initiatives in all schools, including the Victorian Anti-Bullying and Mental Health Initiative, the Schoolwide Positive Behaviour Support program, as well as increased investment in allied health and nursing services.

The state government established a landmark Royal Commission into Mental Health and has said it would implement every one of its recommendations.

Mr Andrews said as a parent, he knew the dread you could feel when children talked about kids at school hurting themselves or taking their own lives.

‘‘That’s why we’re giving students professional support when they need it most,’’ Mr Andrews said.

‘‘We will implement every recommendation of the landmark Royal Commission and keep delivering practical support that Victorians need now.’’

●If you, or anyone you know, are experiencing any issues you can phone lifeline on 131114, or Beyond Blue on 1300224636.