Our Twilight Professional Learning for staff last Wednesday night focused on Mental Health. Our school based counsellor from Centacare, Darren Moss shared some insights into anxiety, depression and self harm. Darren started his presentation with the following quote from Elyn Saks:
‘No one would ever say that someone with a broken arm or a broken leg is less than a whole person, but people say that or imply that all the time about people with mental illness’.
Our Pastoral Academic Care (PAC) Program is based on positive psychology and aims to build students wellbeing and resilience. Every week we have a different PAC focus that works to develop key character strengths and presents information in regards to building resilience. This helps many students to identify key areas of strength and areas for development in building a strong sense of self and resilience. By approaching mental health in a proactive way, we hope to help students overcome many of the trials they face as teenagers.
For some students, mental health issues affect their lives in many ways: they could be suffering from it, their friend might be or a family member. We work hard at O’Connor to help students with this. It is important that we support all students who experience mental health illnesses and, together, students, parents and teachers work to help each other with these illnesses. Below are some of the ways these might present and an explanation of some of the links and myths associated with these illnesses. This information has been adapted from the workshop presented by Darren.
Anxiety can affect many people. It is more than just worry and people can’t just ‘get over it’. It is an over activation of the sympathetic nervous system and can present as irrational thoughts about an uncertain outcome, event or threat, an inability to think properly and/or physiological responses such as shaking, sweating, loss of concentration, memory, voice shakes, heart rate increases and/or stomach aches.
How can we manage anxiety?
- The Brave Program
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Deep breathing
- Try not to engage in logical discussion if they are in a panic or highly distressed
- Referral for counselling
Depression can be a debilitating disease and is not just a normal feeling of being sad or down. It can present as poor concentration, emotionally expressive or withdrawn, anger, decreased self-esteem and feelings of self-worth, irritability, negative perceptions of student's past and present and/or a lack of interest and involvement in previously enjoyed activities. Many of these are also normal emotions of a teenager so it can be hard to diagnose. Depression can affect sleeping patterns, diet/weight and result in missing of school and poor relationships.
Self harm can be linked to anxiety, depression and anger but not always. It doesn’t always mean that the person is looking for attention, being manipulative or wants to commit suicide. It is a way of coping with emotions and feelings. Self harm can be a way of dealing with feelings of sadness, guilt, anger, fear, shame and numbness. If you are worried about someone close to you self harming, it is important that you; don’t take it personal, are supportive and calm, and seek support through a health professional.
All students, parents and staff can access support for managing these, and other mental health issues, through Centacare. Darren Moss (our counsellor from Centacare) is at O’Connor on Mondays and Wednesdays. The referral process is easy and the forms can be accessed by contacting the school office. Centacare also offer many programs, such as ‘Surviving your Adolescents’, which can be accessed through their website http://centacarenenw.com.au/. If you or a family member are in need of support please do not hesitate to contact us. Contact details for other support networks are:
Lifeline Australia phone 13 11 14
Kids Helpline phone 1800 551800 or webchat https://kidshelpline.com.au/teens/
Beyond Blue phone 1300 22 4636
Or your GP or the emergency department of the hospital.
Are you OK?