Fostering a positive mental health culture in schools

Mental health advocacy organisation R U OK? has released free resources mapped to the Australian Curriculum for primary and secondary schools. These resources could serve as a valuable tool for both students and educators, Katie Fotheringham writes.

As an organisation, R U OK? encourages people to invest more time in their personal relationships and build informal support networks comprising friends, family and colleagues, while having conversations surrounding mental health if they identify signs of distress or difficulty.

While R U OK? prompts us to start these important conversations, without adequate tools to support people facing mental health challenges, we may be ill equipped to provide meaningful help.

R U OK? CEO Katherine Newton said the new resources were designed to empower students to become better friends and equip them with the skills needed to provide valuable support to one another.

“For students, learning how to support their peers and show interest in how a friend is travelling, through whatever life is throwing at them, is an important life lesson,” Katherine said.

“We have designed these resources to empower schools and increase students’ capacity to look after their peers by having meaningful R U OK? conversations,” she said.

Practical resources for classrooms

The resources include lesson plans, videos and classroom activities suitable for students across all year levels that can be used to address the Personal, Social and Community content in the Health strands from the Australian Curriculum.

R U OK? educator resources can also be integrated into pastoral care and wellbeing lessons via The Australian Student Wellbeing Framework.

The resources develop a range of general capabilities, including aspects from personal and social, critical and creative thinking, ethical understanding and literacy.

Resources can be accessed online at

Promoting educator wellbeing

While fostering a positive mental health culture among students is important, it is also necessary to consider what can be done to promote wellbeing among education workers.

Research has shown workers in the education sector continue to face high rates of psychological strain, with teachers more likely to experience anxiety and depression than the average Australian.

A recent report from the Black Dog Institute found that a staggering 46 per cent of Australian teachers are considering leaving the profession within the next 12 months – a huge increase from 14 per cent in 2021.

Wellbeing Reps in schools

Bec Webster, a HPE and Science teacher at St Thomas More College in Brisbane, is the Wellbeing Representative in her school’s Chapter.

“Within my Chapter, I work very closely with our Chapter Rep to support our staff,” Bec said.

“Sometimes, our staff just want to be heard, and I’m happy to offer my time for that.

“But sometimes, people aren’t sure what to do and use me as a sounding board before moving to action.”

Bec said taking on the role of Wellbeing Representative has allowed her to make a positive contribution while being more actively involved with her Chapter.

“My ultimate goal is that all our staff have the ability to speak up when they are either struggling or if they have an idea that could benefit our whole staff contingent,” she said.

Supporting students and staff

Bec said more support should be available to both students and staff to support their wellbeing.

“Students need to learn wellbeing at an early age so they can create good habits.

“Having processes in place to support wellbeing ensures staff are actually able to look after themselves and their families,” she said.

Bec said her school had successfully implemented some of the new R U OK? resources within their pastoral care classes to support student wellbeing.

R U OK? has also compiled resources related to educator wellbeing, including a staffroom conversation guide designed to empower educators to create a supportive workplace culture.

Staff resources can be found at

What is a Wellbeing Representative?
For students, learning how to support their peers and show interest in how a friend is travelling, through whatever life is throwing at them, is an important life lesson.
Within the IEU-QNT Branch, Wellbeing Representatives are an important component of Chapter Leadership Structures.
The Wellbeing Representative has the responsibility of working with the Chapter on matters of social justice and staff welfare.
The role involves being a point of contact for staff who need information related to burnout, bullying or harassment as well as general wellbeing – and training is provided to ensure they are equipped to deal with these issues.
If you are interested in electing a Wellbeing Representative for your IEU Chapter please contact your IEU-QNT Organiser directly via your MyIEU member portal at
Photo credit: Photos courtesy of John Veage/R U OK?