School-based mental health program launched in WA

  • 75% of all mental health issues start before the age of 24
  • One in four young people are living with a mental disorder
  • New Black Dog Institute program being rolled out across WA to address these

A unique mental health curriculum resource that equips teachers to better understand and teach young people with mental health issues has been launched in Western Australia by the Black Dog Institute, in partnership with Principals Australia Institute and nib foundation.

Called HeadStrong, the innovative program uses a series of engaging, humorous cartoon images to enable secondary school teachers to effectively deal with a topic that has traditionally been difficult to teach.

According to Chris Rule, Education Program Manager at the Black Dog Institute and HeadStrong presenter, up to 75 per cent of mental health issues emerge during adolescence.

“There is real need to increase the understanding of mood disorders among adolescents. HeadStrong provides a straight-forward curriculum resource for teachers on mental health, depression and resilience based on clinically proven concepts.”

“This resource is specifically targeted for young people. The program’s visual format also lends itself to teaching students with learning difficulties or from non-English speaking backgrounds,” he adds.

Topics include identifying challenges faced by teens, types of mood disorders, at-risk personality styles, understanding how to seek help for yourself or someone you know, the benefits of family and school support, and how to build resilience.

nib foundation Chairman, Keith Lynch, said the foundation supported the national expansion of Headstrong following a successful pilot of the program in 2012.

“The pilot program received overwhelmingly positive feedback, with 96 per cent of teachers agreeing that the activities were engaging for students and helped achieve their learning outcomes,” Mr Lynch said.

“By providing students with an increased knowledge of mood disorders, their symptoms as well as how and when to seek help, the program aims to help reduce the impact of mood disorders on young people leading to an improvement in their overall health and wellbeing,” he added.

The first HeadStrong teacher workshop is being held in Perth on 8th August, with following events in Albany and Fremantle. Webinars are planned for other WA regions.

Find out more about the Headstrong program at