A team of specialist counsellors is needed in every secondary school to identify and support students with anxiety and depression, according to a mental health expert.
The manager of headspace Geelong, Malcolm Scott, said the model used at the exclusive Geelong Grammar School — which operates a Positive Education Institute and employs a team of nurses, psychologists and wellbeing experts — should be replicated in all Victorian schools.
In an interview with the Geelong Advertiser, Mr Scott said the Geelong Grammar Wellbeing Team was kept incredibly busy.
‘Every school should have a diverse welfare team,’ he said.
Many local schools referred troubled students to headspace and other services for help but there were barriers to young people in presenting to mental health services, and many never turned up, Mr Scott said.
‘We get a lot of referrals from schools which are feeling overwhelmed,’ he said.
‘We have some school counsellors with students lining up outside their office, and they are having to send referrals to us.
‘If there were more of those resources available in every school campus it would be very beneficial and help prevent students seeking treatment late.’
GP mental health nurse for headspace, Sue Eddy, said it was important young people suffering anxiety were helped as soon as possible because, left untreated, it could lead to serious depression.
‘There’s certainly a connection between anxiety and depression and the more prolonged the stress and greater the stressors are, the more likely you are to have some sort of mental health issue whether it be turning to substance misuse, self-harm or depression,’ she said.
A recently released Federal report into The Mental Health of Children and Adolescents shows there is a strong relationship between socio-economic disadvantage and higher rates of mental illness, with adolescents from poorer families more likely to suffer from mental health disorders than children of wealthy or working parents.
The study also found a link between poor mental health and students living in rural and regional areas.