The Victorian Government has partnered with the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) and The Ian Potter Foundation to trial an early intervention and prevention pilot program for primary school students facing mental health challenges.
The $1.2 million pilot program will be piloted in up to 10 Victorian primary schools, providing school staff with evidence-based training and resources to assist in better identifying and responding to mental health issues affecting primary school students.
It is hoped that through the program, participating schools will be able to build strong connections with community-based health services so students and families can be linked to these services when needed.
“We’re ensuring our kids are happy and healthy, so they can focus on learning and have the best opportunity to succeed in education and life. Mental health among students is one of the biggest concerns raised with me by both parents and teachers – this is a first step in looking at what more we can do in our schools to address this issue,” said Minister for Education James Merlino.
Jointly funded by the Victorian Government and The Ian Potter Foundation, the pilot will begin in selected schools in the north-east of Melbourne and the Loddon Campaspe region from Term 1, 2020.
“Primary schools are an ideal platform from which to provide mental health services because virtually all children attend school and teachers are in an ideal position to identify children with emerging or existing mental health issues and help put in place effective early intervention strategies,” said Professor Frank Oberklaid from the Centre for Community Child Health at the MCRI.
The new early intervention and prevention pilot program builds on the $51.2 million Mental Health Practitioners in Schools initiative, which aims to provide every Victorian government secondary school campus with funding for a mental health practitioner by 2022.
To date, 50 schools have recruited mental health practitioners such as psychologists, social workers and mental health nurses as part of this, with a further 57 secondary school campuses to join this list from Term 1, 2020.