Supporting children’s mental health in the early years of their education is vital, writes journalist Mykeala Campanini.
Significant mental health problems can occur from a young age, with young children showing clear characteristics of anxiety disorders, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders, depression and post traumatic stress disorders.
Research shows direct correlation between the emotional wellbeing of children and the functioning of their caregivers, homes and communities, highlighting the importance of early intervention in early childhood educational environments.
Judy Kynaston, General Manager of Early Childhood Australia’s Be You team, said many interrelated factors affect children’s mental health.
“Risk factors for children’s mental health and wellbeing increase the likelihood of mental health issues developing during childhood and beyond and include internal (biological and psychological) family or environmental characteristics, and experiences and events that challenge social and emotional wellbeing,” Kynaston said.
“When children observe positive and warm relationships between their family and educators, they will feel secure and accepted and have a positive sense of wellbeing.
“Therefore, the most effective approaches to mental health promotion are those that involve everyone in the community – teachers, children, young people and families.”
Nadine Bartholomeusz-Raymond, General Manager of Education and Families for Beyond Blue, said one in seven young people aged between four and 17 has experienced a mental health issue in the past 12 months, totalling 560,000 young people.
“A recent Beyond Blue survey of teachers and early learning service educators found 86% named mental health issues among the top three major health concerns for children,” reported Bartholomeusz-Raymond.
“Two out of three believed anxiety was the most common mental health issue for children and young people, and one in five named depression.”
The Be You Initiative
Teachers are often the first to notice when a child or young person may be struggling with their mental health, which is why Beyond Blue partnered with Early Childhood Australia and national youth mental health foundation Headspace to ensure all teachers across Australian early learning and school settings have the capacity to respond to mental health concerns of the children in their centres and schools.
“Be You officially launched in 2018 and builds on the success and learnings from five existing programs aimed at promoting social and emotional health and wellbeing for children in the education space,” said Bartholomeusz-Raymond.
“The program is a mental health resource for educators. It’s free to every early childhood education centre, primary and secondary school and aims to work with teachers to improve the mental health outcomes of generations of young Australians.”
“By using Be You, teachers and learning communities can embed strategies that promote help seeking, create opportunities for career growth and personal development, and offer resources for staff to build a sense of self efficacy,” said Bartholomeusz-Raymond.
“It provides information on how to reduce and manage stress levels, maintain positive social interactions and how to seek support.”
Resources for teachers
Early childhood teachers have access to the Be You professional learning resources that can be linked to their participating early childhood education centre or school and follows them should they change positions.
Teachers are also able to add their teacher registration number and state/territory to their profile to support their professional development requirements linked to teacher registration.
“Be You is for every Australian teacher, including preservice teachers, and offers a range of online tools, guides, resources and professional learning aimed at developing skills and knowledge to promote and support the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people,” said Kynaston.
“The Be You professional learning resources consist of 13 content modules grouped under the five domains centred around Mentally Healthy Communities.
“The initiative is designed to benefit individual teachers as well as whole learning communities. Registered Be You Learning Communities will have access to a Be You Consultant so they can be supported every step of the way.”
Visit https://beyou.edu.au/ for more information and to register your learning community.