Yarra Junction Primary School excited to see strides taken towards improving kid’s mental health

Ms Kate Cairns, Miami, Charley and Mrs Glenda Jewell in Yarra Junction Primary School's 'Gratitude Garden'. Picture: SUPPLIED

By Callum Ludwig

Yarra Junction Primary School noticed a need to address mental health concerns among their staff and student community over the Covid-19 lockdowns and acted to help support each other in tough times.

Following the announcement of the $200 million packages to support the ‘Mental Health in Primary Schools’ program from the Victorian Government this week, schools statewide will be able to expand their mental health and wellbeing programs.

Yarra Junction Primary School Principal Lisa Rankin said Wellbeing Officer Glenda Jewell applied for a grant for staff in the school to receive youth and mental health first aid training.

“All of our classroom teachers and Glenda were able to be trained, and since then myself and another member of the wellbeing team have been trained,” she said.

“We were able to access it all through a grant and we’re certainly hoping the investment into mental health might support schools to access this training for all staff, including education support staff and specialist teachers as well.”

Yarra Junction Primary Schools’ long-running well-being program includes visits from the Resilience Project, Respectful Relationships, Positive Body Image and Online Cybersafety programs and a mandated 50-minute block dedicated to wellbeing each week.

Mrs Jewell said sometimes students have needed the next level of support and the government announcement is an exciting move to bring support into school.

“It’s a struggle for us in the Valley that there are not enough services for our kids, or for our families to get to them, whether they can’t transport them or the process is overwhelming,”

“Going to medical centres can often feel as though you have to be sick to go there, and there aren’t always sick, they just need a bit of extra help with their mental health. Schools can hopefully be a different environment.”

Yarra Junction Primary School has encouraged parents to be part of the process previously as well, holding information sessions on cybersafety and body image.

Ms Rankin said it’s great to see funding towards mental health go towards primary schools as well as secondary schools as mental health issues are not just something that affects teenagers.

“It’s really important that we put a focus on where it’s actually starting from at the core, and we can help them, and it will be complimenting a lot of the programs we already have,” she said.

Mrs Jewell said mental health is a lifelong journey all the way even through adulthood.

“It’s like of a domino effect, If you don’t get it right to start with, it impacts on our community as adults,” she said.

“If we can support from foundation level in primary school, we might be able to give our kids some skills and strategies to be successful as teenagers, young people and adults in the world so it’s impacting on society. It’s huge.”