Promoting Mental Health in Schools and Early Childhood Services

This innovative project is a collaborative endeavour of the DEECD and Monash University. Project Director, Dr Andrea Reupert, Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Education, is leading the team of seven academics from the Faculty of Education (Dr Philip Riley, A/Prof Joanne Deppeler, Dr Umesh Sharma) and the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences (A/Prof Daryl Maybery, A/Prof Pamela Snow, Dr Penelope Hasking). Ms Vanja Radojevic is the Project Manager.

Innovation

The strength of this program is the action research model. All participants are encouraged to conduct an action research model in their school as a way of implementing mental health promotion. Inviting participants to employ an action research model (a cyclic model of observe, reflect, plan, act, see figure below) means that participants are encouraged and supported to take their learnings into their school environments and implement change in a reflective, iterative manner, using school based data, specific to their role and context.  Participants are asked to document their action research project i.e. collect and record school based data to monitor drivers and/or obstacles with respect to change, show evidence of change/no change, and document key learnings and reflections, over time. Participants are supported to employ action research in their schools as a process for initiating change.

Promoting reflection and self-assessment to inform and improve practice instils an ongoing commitment to improvement, not only in the area of mental health promotion but also more broadly in other areas related to pedagogy, teaching and learning. Such a process can develop and improve practices and the sharing of effective practices. The action research model inherent in the program invites participants to identify an area of mental health promotion in their school related to their role, that they believe needs addressing, collaboratively identify goals, provide an intervention or strategies around this goal and collect and interpret school data over time, to monitor change.

Project Outcomes

As part of this accredited Mental Health Professional Learning Program, a series of eight Professional Development sessions has been facilitated in metro and regional Victoria. More than 200 participants attended these session targeted at: principals, assistant principals, year level coordinators, student wellbeing coordinators,  teachers, welfare officers,  school nurses, allied health professionals, preschool field officers and other wellbeing staff in school and early childhood settings. The final component of the project, an online professional learning platform, is currently being developed. It is envisaged that this platform will be available from January 2014.