Schools invited to beat mental health stigma  

Connect Health & Community has invited local high schools to join a ground-breaking mental health initiative in 2021 after its pilot helped many VCE students in the most tumultuous of years.

Partner schools are invited to join Boss Brain, a youth mental health initiative aimed at raising awareness of mental health among young people in the community.

The Boss Brain Wellbeing Team.

Piloted this year with Brighton Secondary College, the initiative focusses on increasing mental health literacy, help-seeking behaviours and reducing the stigma associated with mental illness among the school community – in a year fraught with great uncertainty for VCE students.

Connect Health & Community CEO, Amanda Murphy, said that with one in four Australians aged 16-24 experiencing mental illness, making it the number one health issue for young Australians is essential.

“Through the program young people can play a positive role in breaking down the stigma related to mental ill-health and help others in their community access the support they need. Boss Brain helps students to be the driving force for change in our community by starting conversations about mental health. We know these conversations can be difficult, but we also know how important they are, particularly at the moment,” Ms Murphy said.

As part of Boss Brain at Brighton Secondary College, 23 students from years 11 and 12 were trained in teen mental health first aid – teaching them how and where to get help, and how to provide mental health first aid to their peers.

Students also designed and developed a mental health video for the school featuring an interview with a mental health practitioner from youth support organisation Headspace – providing students a clear avenue of support in a challenging year.

“All our Year 11s and 12s sat down at the same time and watched the video we made - this was the first time anything like this has ever happened at our school.  It sends a very clear message that mental health is something our school takes seriously, and it was an important step in raising the profile of mental health as an important issue to tackle together,” said Argia a year 12 student who participated in the project.

Student Wellbeing Manager at Brighton Secondary College, Peter Mangold, said Boss Brain has proven an invaluable investment by the school in a very challenging year.

“Not only did Boss Brain enable our young people to make a difference in their community, but it has given them the training they need to manage mental health and skills to promote good mental health for their peers.  This year has been one no-one could have foreseen, but armed with the skills and confidence to address their mental health, our students have certainly fared much better than they would have without it,” Mr Mangold said.

Ms Murphy said, “The initiative has been very well received within the student community and survey results demonstrate that Boss Brain has the potential to continue making a positive impact in the community, especially during such turbulent times for young people.”

In 2020, the project reached 270 students.  As a result of participating in the project:

  • 73% of students reported a better understanding of where to go for help for a mental health concern;
  • 66% of students reported a better understanding of mental health and how to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental illness;
  • 52% of students reported they would be more likely to seek support for a mental health concern
  • 55% of students reported they are more comfortable to openly discuss their mental health.

Boss Brain is funded by the Bendigo Bank Cluster of Bayside Branches through their Community Grants program.  It is developed and is governed by Connect Health & Community in partnership with Headspace (Elsternwick/Bentleigh Branch), Bayside City Council, Glen Eira Council, Bayside Glen Eira Kingston Local Learning & Employment Network and Holmesglen Institute.

Schools seeking more information or to register interest about Boss Brain can contact healthpromotion@connecthealth.org.au.

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