Parkdale Secondary College - psychologist

June Sainsbery – Assistant Principal, Parkdale Secondary College: At Parkdale Secondary College we have students presenting with a variety of different mental health concerns and challenges. Priya, our Mental Health Practitioner has brought the wealth of experience and knowledge about external services and programs. And her deep knowledge of that has enabled our wellbeing team to become more knowledgeable and better able to support our students and our families.

Priya Dhairyawan – Mental Health Practitioner, Parkdale Secondary College: My name is Priya Dhairyawan. I'm a Mental Health Practitioner at Parkdale Secondary College. And my background is psychology and I work full-time. So that's one EFT. I was attracted to the Mental Health Practitioner position because of many reasons. Often as a psychologist, you know, you're often seeing young people or clients when they present with a crisis point. And this was actually a great chance to be able to do preventative work.

And the access that you have to the students, so they, you know, students spend about, close to 30 hours a week at school. So that's many opportunities to intervene, to work with the young person and their families. And there's not a lot of those opportunities available elsewhere.

Colette Davis – Mental Health Coordinator, Bayside Peninsula Area: So to be a Mental Health Practitioner you need to be a fully qualified Psychologist, a fully qualified Social Worker, Mental Health Nurse, or an OT, who's an Occupational Therapist. You also need to have significant amount of experience in mental health and working with young people. Each Mental Health Practitioner will come with their particular qualification.

When they come into this role, they take that hat off and the role of Mental Health Practitioner is clearly defined. So the role of the Mental Health Practitioners in three response to intervention tiers which is that bottom level, which is that whole school approach to mental health and good mental health promotion and prevention. And that next tier is absolutely about capability building of students within small groups, as well as teachers to recognise and respond to mental health.

And that top tier around intervention one-to-one it might be referral to external services and training and P.D. in support of staff to be able to recognise and respond to mental health. And so the aim of the Mental Health Practitioner initiative is limit all of the barriers that the young person experiences to be in the classroom and get an education.

Priya Dhairyawan: So I think what's been great about the role is, school culture is very unique and often, you know, teachers play a very significant role so one of the things that I've enjoyed doing is actually learning what their experiences are of supporting students because teachers don't necessarily have that mental health training, that they often are the first point of contact when students present in a crisis. So being able to support students you're not only providing them the interventions they need, you're also in some ways building teacher capacity and supporting them. And that's helped with my professional growth, and that's something I've enjoyed doing.

Jake Phin – Student Wellbeing Coordinator, Parkdale Secondary College: So having Priya on board as the Mental Health Practitioner at Parkdale Secondary College allowed us to do things we weren't previously able to do. And that's across the whole college. Priya has been able to deliver programs across the college. So, whether that's embedded in curriculum or even assisting in the rollout of respectful relationships across the college, I think she's given us a wider scope to deliver content to, again, a wider amount of students. Having someone like Priya on board enables us to get further support and training for these staff, because at the end of the day it's a collective responsibility at the college to support students and their wellbeing needs.

June Sainsbery: Priya has enabled us to undertake some explicit teaching of emotional regulation with our young people. And this has meant that they are able to then take control of their own mental health to a certain degree. And subsequently there's less presentations of students with mental health concerns, those more minor mental health concerns at the college.

Kai – Student: Priya is amazing. She's helped me figure out a lot of the stuff that I've needed and given me a lot of opportunities to see places like Headspace. It reduces a lot of feelings that you could have like negative feelings specifically that you could be feeling and just having that person there to talk to about it all, it definitely helps you identify what you're thinking or going through. And it also helps you to try and seek some type of help or wellbeing. So, it's just nice to have her there.

Priya Dhairyawan: Anybody who's interested in applying for the Mental Health Practitioner role I'd say, definitely go for it. It's a fantastic opportunity to not only practise your skills, but also the level of support that you get. And you also get to share a lot of knowledge with other mental health practitioners that belong to other disciplines and access to professional development through various experts in their fields. So, it's wonderful.