Mental health spotlight in schools

Heidi Kraak

High school students at state schools across Gippsland will have access to dedicated mental health professionals at school under a $51.2 million state government program to be rolled out next year.

Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing visited Kurnai College’s Morwell campus today to announce the Mental Health in Schools program, which will employ more than 190 qualified health professionals, including counsellors, youth workers and psychologists to work in schools alongside other wellbeing and physical health staff.

The announcement comes off the back of Labor’s commitment to fund a Royal Commission into mental health should it be re-elected at the upcoming state election, however, the Mental Health in Schools program is not merely an election promise. 

Ms Shing said that there could be significant impacts on students’ social and educational engagement if their mental health and wellbeing was out of balance.

“We know that one is seven Victorians between the ages of four and 17 experience a mental health issue,” she said.

“We’d never tell anyone with a broken leg to get up and walk … and it is the same with mental health and wellbeing, too.

“It is well past time we have this conversation. It is about putting sunlight on the issue.”

The mental health professionals will provide counselling and other intervention services for students and will also lead prevention activities by giving school staff the skills to manage student mental health.

Health professionals will be employed and allocated to schools across the state based on enrolment numbers.