NSW Mental Health Curriculum Change

This petition made change with 300 supporters!

My name is Isobel Healey. I am the Youth Member for Lane Cove in the YMCA NSW Youth Parliament, 2015 Legislative Council.

According to a new report released by Mission Australia in partnership with the Black Dog Institute, one in five young Australians are likely to experience mental illness and less than 40% are comfortable seeking professional help. Two of the report’s key recommendations to address the issue is to ‘target mental health in schools through awareness and early intervention programs and to reduce stigma that may prevent help-seeking behaviour in young people’.

A quick web search in the NSW PDHPE syllabus for years 7-10 provides very few results regarding mental health. The curriculum simply states that students will:

a) Define mental health

b) The nature of mental health problems

c) Factors that support mental health

d) Changing perspectives on mental health

The curriculum also allows schools to focus on chosen aspects of the mental health curriculum and omit others. This has led to a patchwork approach to youth mental health education within our schools. Many serious and important aspects of youth mental health education are not covered adequately or omitted entirely in the curriculum of many NSW schools.

Mental health education at my own high school was disturbingly minimal. The curriculum comprised a clinical and science based approach recognising the symptoms of stereotyped youth mental health conditions such as depression and anorexia. It did not provide opportunities for students to engage and understand the seriousness of mental health issues and their relevance to individuals, families, and the wider community. A survey of peers from other schools found the same - their schools had placed little to no focus on mental health education.

The report by Mission Australia shows the current NSW school curriculum has not reduced the alienation felt by individuals suffering from mental health problems and has not succeeded in  reducing the stigma preventing our young people from seeking help. Educating our youth about mental health in an engaging and relevant way, ensuring adequate emphasis in the schools’ curriculum and it’s uniform application across all schools in NSW is the first step in understanding and developing empathy and reducing stigma for those affected. .

A well overdue review and redesign of the NSW curriculum addressing youth mental health is now of utmost urgency considering the long term, far reaching impacts of mental health problems.

This petition requests the NSW Government to review the NSW curriculum for mental health education and introduce mandatory uniform mental health education in NSW schools focusing on:

- reducing the stigma of mental illness;

- recognition of the signs and symptoms of mental health problems in young people;

- strategies for maintaining good mental health;

- and how to seek help.

I urge you to sign this petition so it can be debated in the 2015 YMCA NSW Youth Parliament 2015. If passed, it will be handed to the NSW Government as an act of YMCA NSW Youth Parliament 2015. In this way we can advance this important issue and effect change. Help make a difference.

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