Every government secondary student in Victoria can now access vital mental health support at school with the roll out of mental health practitioners to every Victorian government secondary and specialist school now complete.
Minister for Education James Merlino announced that the roll out of the $51.2 million Mental Health Practitioners initiative will be finalised by Term Four ─ a year earlier than originally committed to, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Students, teachers, families and school communities have been incredibly resilient throughout this pandemic ─ but we know it’s been incredibly difficult for many of our kids, and we’re making sure they’re supported while studying,” he said.
“We’ve laid out our plan to get students back into the classroom this term, but we know some kids will need more support – and this program will make it easy for them to reach out and get the mental health care they deserve.”
The last phase of the roll out will see more than 50 secondary and specialist schools in Goulburn, Brimbank/Melton and Wimmera South West receive funding to recruit a mental health practitioner from the start of Term Four.
The support will enable schools to employ a practitioner for up to five days a week – with more than 250 suitably qualified and registered mental health practitioners already working across the state’s secondary schools.
The mental health practitioners can include psychologists, social workers, occupational therapists and mental health nurses delivering the unique needs of each student cohort.
Supporting around 188,000 students, these practitioners offer counselling and early intervention services, support students with complex needs, connect students to broader allied and community health services and deliver whole-school mental health promotion and prevention activities – including during periods of remote learning.
In August 2020, additional support for this critical program helped boost a further 51 mental health practitioners to specialist schools across the state, catering to the mental health needs of some of Victoria’s most vulnerable students. Around 4,300 secondary-aged students with disabilities currently have access to a practitioner in their school.
The Mental Health Practitioners initiative is in addition to the government’s $28.5 million package to ensure that all Victorian government school students have continued access to professional mental health and wellbeing support during the pandemic.