With more pressure on students than ever before, it’s little wonder that student anxiety statistics are skyrocketing across Australia.
For students navigating the precarious world of social media, balancing hefty homework loads and external responsibilities, the impacts of anxiety can have a devastating impact on their ability to learn and function. But what can schools do to help? And what can be done to help schools?
According to a report in Australian Teacher Magazine, student anxiety can manifest in many different ways. Some students may become quiet, others may act out, some may feel physically ill or exhausted, others may refuse to go to school altogether.
Regardless of how anxiety presents in the classroom, the negative impact on student learning and wellbeing is undeniable.
Steve Darcy, principal of St Mary’s Star Of The Sea Catholic Primary School in Hurstville, Sydney, raised concerns about students’ mental health across Australia, particularly amongst younger students.
‘There’s been a noticeable increase over the last 10 years, of students presenting with this high anxiety in a primary school setting,’ he says.
‘My concerns aren’t based just on this school but also on conversations I’m having with colleagues in all primary schools regarding the numbers of students who are exhibiting high anxiety, and issues around mental health wellbeing.’
‘Teachers across all education systems are spending a lot of their time having to deal with these issues. To be like a counsellor for many of our students, and they do it willingly, but they only have so much time.’
‘Governments need to look at what they can do to support families and the education sector around this increasing issue.’
Comprehensive resources, such as KidsMatter, can provide School Nurses, teachers and schools with clear action plans and a database of contacts.
KidsMatter national project manager Lyn O’Grady suggests involving the entire school to promote positive mental health through social and emotional learning programs.
‘We want children to know that all feelings are okay,’ she says.
‘Positive feelings, but also sad feelings or upset feelings or scared feelings. They’re all perfectly normal and healthy feelings.’
’It’s what you do with them that’s important.’