For the third year running, a Sydney primary school took a day off regular classes to engage the school community in healthy, inclusive activities aimed at building mental strength and resilience.
The school, Orange Grove Public School in the inner-west suburb of Lilyfield, celebrated Mental Health Month with its third annual Kids Matter Day on Thursday 27, October, offering yoga sessions, group fitness activities, healthy meals and gardening.
Representatives from the NSW Swifts netballers, the AFL and Sydney FC were among sporting organisations that ran outdoor activities for students.
Assistant Principal at Orange Grove, Carmelina Cascio described the initiative as an event designed to teach students critical coping mechanisms, which may not see as much emphasis in the course of a regular school day.
“Although formal classes are cancelled for the day, our yellow-themed fun fair aims to build on the school’s mental health and wellbeing programs that are teaching students how to cope with life’s many stresses,” she said.
“We know from the research that 45 per cent of all Australians will experience some form of mental illness in their lifetime, so it is essential that young children learn early about how to be resilient, confident and able to cope in social situations,” said Ms Cascio.
“Children who develop these skills also experience greater educational success, so we need to devote significant attention to mental wellbeing in school environments.”
The 2016 theme for Mental Health Month, which is itself an initiative of WayAhead, Mental Health Association NSW, is ‘Learn and Grow’.
“This is perfect for our school because we’ve been immersing students this year in setting learning and social goals to help them achieve positive growth as individuals,” said Ms Cascio.
Kids Matter is a Government-funded program that aims to improve mental health and wellbeing in the early years of schooling.