Teachers will now have access to the highest quality mental health professional development courses to help them recognise and refer students to the help they need, when they need it.
The NSW Nationals in the state government are assembling a panel of some of Australia’s leading experts in mental health to provide ongoing guidance and feedback around NESA-accredited mental health professional development courses for teachers.
NSW Nationals Education Minister Sarah Mitchell announced the new panel, which will include academics, researchers and representatives from each sector including early childhood education to ensure that all mental health professional development courses accredited by NESA meet the highest standards and support the latest evidence-based research in the field.
“The initiative is another positive step towards ensuring teachers are armed with the knowledge and information they need to recognise and refer mental health concerns and assist students and young children with their mental health in mind,” Ms Mitchell said
“Schools are not the places where students receive treatment for any major concerns, but they can help recognise symptoms and support students to receive the help they need.
“I want teachers to feel equipped to help their students seek support, and these high-quality courses will deliver that, particularly in areas where we know additional support is needed.”
NSW Nationals Minister for Mental Health and Regional Youth Bronnie Taylor said the courses will help amplify the support in schools and in the community.
“Identifying mental health issues is such a challenge and unfortunately a large number of adults and students who are suffering don’t always put their hand up for help,” Mrs Taylor said.
“We have a web of support for our students, from School Wellbeing nurses to community services, but it’s vital we give our teachers the skills they need to recognise signs of mental illness.”
Associate Professor David Hawes from the Child Behaviour Research Clinic at the University of Sydney Brain and Mind Centre is one expert set to join the panel.
“I welcome this initiative and am supportive of any opportunity that gives teachers more evidence-based tools to communicate about and address mental health in the classroom,” A/Prof Hawes said.
“Research is constantly emerging about how we can best address student and child mental health and, understandably, the stream of information and opinion can become overwhelming.”
Also joining the panel is Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Dr Michael Bowden from NSW Health and Professor Frank Oberklaid AM of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute.
Professor Oberklaid noted that school is the ideal environment to begin building a foundation of wellbeing and resilience.
“It’s important that we’re arming teachers with the confidence and knowledge they need to identify the links between mental health and learning, and to guide them around early intervention where appropriate,” Professor Oberklaid said.
Teachers are required to undertake 100 hours of professional development over five years, of which at least 50 hours must be NESA Accredited courses across four new priority areas:
• Student/child mental health,
• School and early childhood curriculum and assessment,
• students/children with disability,
• and Aboriginal education.
The new panel is in addition to the more than 2000 specialist staff providing wellbeing support to schools, including school counsellors, school psychologists, student support officers, behaviour specialists and School Wellbeing Nurses.