While attention is on the global pandemic, a lot of work is continuing to help school communities recover from the devastation of last summer’s bushfires.
These difficult times have reminded everyone how important our educators are to our school and early childhood communities.
For schools and early learning services affected by bushfires, the national mental health in education initiative, Be You is working to support children and young people.
With a $98.6 million investment from the Australian Government, Be You aims to transform Australia’s approach to supporting mental health in early learning services and schools.
An additional $8 million has been targeted to support bushfire-affected early childhood and school communities as part of the dedicated Bushfire Response Program. The Program includes trauma guidance and support and 25 specialist support people, called Contact Liaison Officers, who are now assisting educators with recovery planning, navigating community support services and wellbeing strategies.
According to Beyond Blue, one in seven young people aged between four and 17 has experienced a mental health issue in the past 12 months – that’s 560,000.
Children spend around 30 hours at schools or in care each week, so educators are confronted with these issues every day.
Be You is providing educators with the tools, skills and resources to help them respond to the mental health impact of events like the recent bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic, and to support the mental wellbeing of children and young people in their care.
Louisa Ellum, Head of Be You Major Projects, has worked in education for over 25 years and is passionate about developing positive mental health in children and young people.
“Be You is a free service available to all schools and early learning services and educators to help them develop their mental health skills, apply strategies to create safe classrooms, and know when and how to refer children and young people to appropriate services,” Louisa said.
Educators can use Be You to access professional, online learning modules, webinars and other tools. New resources to help educators and families look after children and young people during the bushfire response period and the COVID-19 pandemic have proven to be the most popular.
Be You also aims to support educators’ mental health and wellbeing by encouraging educators to be aware of their own mental health.
“We also want to ensure educators look after their own mental health and wellbeing, by putting their oxygen masks on first before helping others,” Louisa said.
The Bushfire Response Program’s key goals are to assist educators, early learning services and schools to establish connections with mental health and wellbeing services locally, develop a long-term recovery plan that has a focus on mental health and wellbeing, and engage in trauma-training and upskilling.