Worry, anxiety and depression are big factors in today’s world. They are recognised and talked about in ways that used to be taboo. ‘Taboo’ because to discuss them was deemed to be a sign of weakness. These days people do open up about mental health. It is an issue considered as relevant in many settings, including educational platforms. To be aware and to take mental health into account is important.
3 SUNS 45
‘MIND HEALTH’ A TOP PRIORITY
We are made increasingly aware of challenges children and young people face in modern times. The relatively uncluttered and unhurried times of the past are gone. Children of today are being brought up in an increasingly frenetic world, one that has the potential to confuse and cause them concern.
The nurture of children is about far more than providing food, shelter and clothing. It is about spending time with them and being part of their developing lives. With parents and caregivers heavily committed to work, this can take a great deal of juggling.
At the end of long working days, parents come home exhausted. Many collect children from care centres on the way home. When they walk in the front door, there are domestic chores to confront, meaning young people are left to look after themselves. Television, videos, computer games, Facebook and texting take over minding duties while parents attend to household tasks. Countless studies confirm that prime time spent by parents talking with their children is minimal.
It is important that parents share conversation with their children. Girls and boys need to feel part of the family circle with opinions and ideas that are heard and respected. It is through conversation that parents get to know and understand their own young people. Sharing time also helps children gain confidence in their parents.
Avoiding Sad Outcomes
Concerns about bullying, together with worry, anxiousness and feeling they are not important family members can lead to depression – a growing phenomena among young people.
Common signs of depression among children in the years up to puberty can include:
* a prolonged sad mood
* a loss of interest in normal activities such as playing and games
* withdrawal both at home and school
* uncharacteristic behaviours such as stealing or bullying
* tiredness, particularly in the afternoon
* sleep disturbance
* bed wetting. ( the above dot points from an online source)
Key school programs
The Department of Education (DoE) encourages schools and school communities to be aware of issues that confront children socially and emotionally. More and more, schools are involving with “Kid’s Matter”, “Mind Matters”, and “Bullying No Way” initiatives. These programs offer life building skills.
“Kids Matter … is a flexible whole school approach … improving children’s mental health and wellbeing (in) primary schools.” (kidsmatter.edu.au, home page) The program aims to build respectful relationships. It’s focus is on the following:
* Developing a sense of belonging and inclusiveness for children at school and home.
* Supporting social and emotional learning.
* Working with parents and carers.
* Offering individualised support for students needing help.
‘Mind matters’ is a similar program. It supports Australian secondary schools to promote the mental health and well being of older students. (mindmatters.edu.au, home page)
‘Bullying No Way’ has been established to help make teachers, parents and students aware of bullying’s insidious impacts. Bullying, be it physical, verbal, online or in other forms can have devastating impacts on the lives and confidence of those on the receiving end. It is far too common and cannot be ignored. (bullyingnoway.gov.au/)
Young people have a right to healthy bodies and strong minds. They need to be aware of their part in building a sound future. However, things may not work out the way they should if school and home do not play their part. Educators as secondary carers and parents as primary caregivers are obligated toward helping children transition successfully into an adult world.