The NSW Nationals in the state government have implemented the first phase of the Student Support Officer program, providing enhanced wellbeing and mental health support for students in the Cootamundra electorate.

NSW Nationals Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said five schools in her electorate would be among the first in the state to receive a Student Support Officer, as part of a $88.4 million commitment to provide every public high school in NSW with a full-time counselling support service on-site as well as a Student Support Officer.

“The students in our communities have experienced an incredibly challenging year, with drought, bushfires, floods and of course the COVID-19 pandemic, students need to feel supported more than ever before,” Ms Cooke said.

“Student Support Officers support the government’s whole-of-school approach to wellbeing and will work alongside school counsellors and psychologists to ensure students are getting the support they need to deal with bullying, anxiety, stress and other difficult issues.

“Student Support Officers also play a pivotal role in working collaboratively with external child and family support agencies to support students. I am so pleased Young High School, West Wyalong High School, Narrandera High School, Junee High School and Cowra High School will shortly gain their officers.”

The first phase of 183 schools will receive their Student Support Officer from Term 3, 2020.

Proactive approach to mental health

NSW Nationals Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said having a Student Support Officer onsite at schools means that approaches to wellbeing can be proactive, not reactive.

“It is incredibly important that we support our schools when it comes to the mental health and wellbeing of our students in NSW, and we recognise that 2020 has been an especially challenging year for students and their families,” Ms Mitchell said.

“Student Support Officers can support individual students that are having a tough time or are experiencing circumstances that impact their wellbeing and engagement with their education.

“In addition to these positions, schools in regional and rural NSW, including primary and central schools, have access to a team of specialist psychologists who will provide a dedicated fly-in-fly out service to ensure rural and remote students can access regular and timely psychology support.”

Building on existing support

Ms Cooke said several local schools had already benefited from the fly-in-fly-out service.

“In the Cootamundra electorate, Goologong Public School, Grenfell Public School, Koorawatha Public School, Naradhan Public School, Weethalle Public School, West Wyalong High School, West Wyalong Public School and Wyalong Public School have been part of this trial from Royal Far West, which has brought an expert workforce to rural and remote students who may not have had access to these services in the past,” Ms Cooke said.

“The success of this trial will see even more students be able to access vital mental health services.”

This year the NSW Nationals in the state government have employed an additional 25 school counsellors, bringing the total number of counsellors across NSW high schools to 1108.

NSW Nationals Minister for Mental Health, Regional Youth and Women Bronnie Taylor said that making sure students had access to health and wellbeing supports was crucial.

“Young people are experiencing extraordinary pressures right now, so it is understandable that they may be feeling stressed or unhappy and having higher levels of anxiety, which is why we’re making sure students are well supported,” Mrs Taylor said.

“This is about making it easier for students to get a helping hand on the spot when they are doing it tough, and that they know where to go to get additional specialist mental health and wellbeing support when they need it.”

For more information visit: https://education.nsw.gov.au/student-wellbeing/counselling-and-psychology-services/student-mental-health-and-wellbeing-support-in-schools/student-support-officers.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing emotional distress and needs support, please call:

  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
  • Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
  • NSW Mental Health Line 1800 011 511