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Mental health support in primary schools

By 2026, every primary school will be able to employ a Mental Health and Wellbeing Leader to implement a whole-school approach to wellbeing.

The Victorian Government is providing $200 million over 4 years and $93.7 million ongoing to expand the Mental Health in Primary Schools program to every government and low-fee non-government primary school in Victoria. This will support individual students, help teachers better identify and support at-risk students, and build relationships and referral pathways to local mental health services.

A whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing

Participating schools receive funding to employ a Mental Health and Wellbeing Leader, a qualified teacher, to work across the school to implement a whole-school approach to mental health and wellbeing for students, staff and families based on a broad knowledge of the needs of the school community. This means:

  • building the capacity of school staff, in particular classroom teachers, to identify and support students with mental health concerns in the classroom
  • supporting the school to create clear referral pathways internally (within school) and externally (to community services) for students identified as requiring further assessment and intervention
  • coordinating targeted mental health support for students by working with regional staff, school wellbeing and leadership teams, teachers, parents/carers and external agencies
  • advocating for student voice and agency in their wellbeing and mental health needs.

Mental Health and Wellbeing Leaders receive evidence-based training in mental health literacy, supporting student need, and building school capacity, and receive ongoing professional development through Communities of Practice. The training program is developed and facilitated by the University of Melbourne.

Supporting children's mental health in primary schools

The department recognises that good mental health in children is fundamental to their development, and that schools are the ideal platform for promoting good mental health, identifying early signs of mental health concerns, and supporting referrals where necessary.

The Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System (the Royal Commission) highlighted that primary schools in particular provide opportunities to identify children with mental health and wellbeing challenges, who can then be referred to treatment, care and support.

By implementing this program, we are investing in the long-term mental health and wellbeing of today’s students, and tomorrow’s leaders.

Building the capacity, confidence and knowledge of educators

Mental Health and Wellbeing Leaders will build the capacity of school staff, in particular classroom teachers, to identify and support students with mental health concerns in the classroom, including by embedding evidence-based mental health strategies, interventions and programs.

Evidence-based approach

In partnership with the Murdoch Children's Research Institute and the Melbourne Graduate School of Education at the University of Melbourne, the department has been piloting the Mental Health in Primary Schools initiative in Victorian schools since 2020. In 2022 there are 100 schools participating in the Pilot (90 government and 10 Catholic).

Evaluation of the pilot has shown that 95% of Mental Health and Wellbeing Leaders consider the Mental Health in Primary Schools model has improved their school’s capacity to support students’ mental health and wellbeing needs.

Next steps

Further advice will be provided on implementation of the expansion of the Mental Health in Primary Schools program, including the roll-out pattern to schools as the program scales up.

Reviewed 13 December 2022

Education

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Department of Education and Training

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