Originally published in the Education Matters Magazine.
By Netania Lim
Melbourne Girls College students taking part in this year’s YMCA Youth Parliament have argued for improving Victorian students’ education in mental health.
The team of six Melbourne College students believe mental health deserves much greater prominence in the Victorian school curriculum and is a major issue for young people not currently being addressed.
Ms Dakotah Taylor debating in Parliament. Photo: Lexie Huculak.The YMCA Youth Parliament takes place every year and invites young people to voice issues they are most passionate about.
More than 20 bills first tabled at Youth Parliament have gone on to influence state legislation.
The students are not alone in their concern. Mission Australia’s 2015 survey of Australian youth revealed almost 30 per cent of young people considered mental health to be a major issue affecting their lives.
Team member Dakotah Taylor said discussions about mental health needed to be more accessible to young people.
“We have to remove any stigma and negative connotations when it comes to this issue, we need to eradicate the fear of seeking help.’’
The students also call for psychologists to be placed in schools and compulsory mental health first-aid for Year 8 and 10 students.
Community information sessions, to ensure local support, were also part of the proposed bill.
Team member Catherine Butchart, said her team wanted to address the statistic that a quarter of Australians aged between 16 and 24 have experienced a mental health disorder in the past 12 months.
The bill also calls for the mental health education program to start with primary aged children.
Mount Waverley Secondary College teacher Stella Lumb supported efforts to increase attention to youth mental health.
“Mental health issues stem from various things,” she said. “One program is not enough to cover the diverse range of students who suffer from mental health issues.”
Mrs Lumb said that better support is necessary for students “to be accepted for who they are and be themselves.”
She believes that it is difficult for students to open up and talk about their problems with a psychologist they don’t know.
The Mental Health bill will now be passed to Minister for Youth Jenny Mikakos for consideration.
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Headspace on 1800 650 890 or at http://www.headspace.org.au.