Our thinking

Over the last 12 months within Australia there has been a greater focus, both politically and socially, on mental health. Suicide is the largest killer of our young men. More people die from suicide each year than motor vehicle accidents. The co-morbidity associated with mental ill-health has seen the WHO predict that within the next few years, depression will be the greatest health issue (and thus cost economically and socially) in the world – more than heart disease/cardio vascular illness.

The impact of mental ill health on individuals, families, workplaces and communities is devastating. Today, children and youth are more likely to develop a mental illness than 20 years ago, particularly anxiety (generalized and specific disorders) and depression. 20% of 12 – 16 year old adolescents have a mental health problem. Around 1 in 5 Australian adults will experience a mental health illness. Up to 1 in 5 children are at risk of developing severe anxiety. Currently 1 in 4 adolescents suffer from a mental health issue. 1 student in every year 12 classroom has tried to commit suicide. A recent Australian study found the prevalence of anxiety in adolescents to be around 15%. Anxiety disorders are the most common form of psychological disorder in both adults and children in Australia today. If left untreated, childhood anxiety and worry may develop into a chronic adult disorder and, in some cases, clinical depression/anxiety/suicide.

It is therefore crucial that interventions begin early. Early intervention and a positive school experience can have a significantly positive impact on the development of emotionally healthy children. There is, in our opinion, a growing need for children to be taught skills to help them cope with feelings of fear, worry, anxiety and depression by building resilience, coping skills and self-esteem; and teaching cognitive, behavioural, mindfulness and emotional intelligence skills in a safe, simple and holistic way. In order to do this, teachers, parents/carers and the whole school community must be involved and equipped with the skills and resources to help children develop effective strategies to deal with the complex world in which they are growing up.

InclusionMatters Team

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