Schools welcome wellbeing resource

Issue: Volume 99, Number 14

Posted: 3 September 2020
Reference #: 1HAAXA

Feedback from schools about a much-needed mental health education and hauora resource has been extremely positive.

Mental Health

“I have to say I am incredibly impressed with this resource; it is always out on our shared desks for our department to share and utilise. I feel this is really needed in schools.”

That’s what Lorraine Barton, a health and physical education teacher at Whangarei Girls’ High School, had to say about a mental health education resource that is being distributed to all schools catering to Year 7 and above, as well as Teen Parent Units, Activity Centres and RTLB clusters. 

The book, titled Mental Health Education and Hauora: Teaching Interpersonal Skills, Resilience, and Wellbeing, was published by NZCER in recognition of the increasing importance placed on young people’s mental health and wellbeing, particularly in the wake of Covid-19. 

The introduction notes that many of today’s young people are grappling with complex social, cultural, and environmental conditions which affect their mental health. It points to evidence that learning about mental health can have a positive protective impact on wellbeing.

Aligned with the health and physical education learning area in The New Zealand Curriculum, the book aims to enhance learning in four broad areas: personal identity and wellbeing; communication and relationships; social issues and social justice; and health promotion and action.

Initial scepticism overcome

Lorraine was initially sceptical of the resource. “When I first saw it, I thought, ‘Oh no, here we go, another textbook warrior book about mental health by people who don’t get it.

But I was wrong; this is an excellent resource that covers so many things in a safe and appropriate way.”

Lorraine believes there exists a real fear in schools of saying and doing the wrong thing. 

“Many schools, including mine, still understandably have an immense fear surrounding talk about mental health. Something has to change and education is a great start.

“This resource equips teachers with activities and resources from which they can create safe discussion and a depth of learning so that we all have a better understanding of what mental health is.

Lorraine says that building understanding about mental health can only serve to build compassion in the long run, to take away the stigma and to hopefully enable students who need it to know how to access help. She says it can also help fellow students to recognise signs in themselves and others that things may be a bit ‘wonky’ and to just build a community of care and understanding.

Knowledge important

Lynfield College’s health and physical education faculty leader Kat Wells co-authored the book. She agrees it’s a useful tool to help create safe spaces to explore these topics.

“It’s really important for students to have time to explore concepts such as identity and to learn more about mental health and wellbeing both in terms of themselves, their friends and whānau and society as a whole. 

“The activities allow them to investigate both contributing factors and strategies and how to take action for themselves and others. This is a crazy year and this knowledge is even more important for our young people than ever.”

The book started out when Kat and co-author Katie Fitzpatrick decided to update the highly sought-after, out-of-print resource Taking Action: Life Skills in Health Education by Gillian Tasker, Rosemary Hipkins, Polly Parker and Jenny Whatman (1994) Wellington: Learning Media. 

“We thought it would be a cool project to update and republish it so more teachers could access it,” says Kat. The Taking Action resource comprises just one of four chapters in the book. “We just kept thinking of more great stuff to include and it snowballed!”

Kat says the resource is flexible enough for teachers to adjust content to suit the needs of their students. It’s most useful in Years 7 to 11 but can be adapted for younger or older students. It also includes background links and reading for teachers to develop their knowledge.

Supporting wellbeing in schools

To support Mental Health Education, the Ministry of Education has partnered with the New Zealand Health Education Association to provide learning units showing how different lessons can be combined to respond to the needs of students, with further units to be released. 

The Ministry will also be releasing a short video and teaching units to support the book’s activities. Teachers, parents and whānau can access these resources along with a free downloadable PDF of the book via The New Zealand Health Education Association(external link) website. 

Curriculum leads

The Ministry is planning for up to 40 new curriculum leads to be in place from term 2, 2021 to educators in schools, kura and early learning services to implement high-quality curriculum wellbeing initiatives.  

The Ministry will be talking to educators, school and early learning leaders, boards, parents and whānau about how these roles could work, and how they could best support quality wellbeing teaching and learning, before these leads commence work.

These curriculum leads are among a series of new national and local initiatives to support the wellbeing of children and young people. Others include greater access to guidance counsellors in large secondary schools and kura, and more funding for local community organisations to support primary and secondary students in areas most impacted by the economic effects of Covid-19. 

Urgent Response Fund

An Urgent Response Fund will also provide immediate support to schools and kura to improve attendance, and to help manage any learning, social, emotional, mental, or other wellbeing needs directly related to Covid-19.

A teacher’s role in supporting mental health is through teaching and learning. Referral pathways within schools for specialist support should be accessed for students and staff as needed.

Gazette’s video series on wellbeing

Hop onto the Gazette's YouTube channel to check out the Education Gazette’s latest video series on wellbeing and hauora. 

Wellbeing: a kura prospective

Wellbeing: an early learning perspective

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BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 1:37 PM, 3 September 2020

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