Teachers in schools are one of the greatest influencers on building hope in young people.
Schools have the critical role in enabling the toolkit that each student needs to flourish.
Yet one the most critical issues is 'approach'. Being delicate with serious and substantial matters is often hard to navigate and even harder to become consistent in.
Educational leaders know that being able to communicate appropriately and delicately are formidable forces when dealing with sensitive issues.
With the growing awareness of the effects of wellbeing on academic performance, there is a growing and genuine interest in investing energy, resources and ideas into helping young people understand suicide.
We must be proactive.
There is a new hope, a fresh hope, to tackle this growing problem.
The ‘inclusive’ approach allows initial buy in and engagement through empowering young people by building a safe, confidential and professional space for ongoing dialogue and expert help to be available.
It incorporates daily dedication to building a more virtuous and flourishing life for each student, through direct and intentional interaction with the issue of youth suicide prevention and how students can help themselves and others.
Recently the London School of Economics and Political Science released ground-breaking research on the causes and effects of wellbeing.
This research indicated that a child’s emotional health is the biggest driving factor on success and flourishing in adult life.
It also showed that an inability of educational institutions to recognise the importance of a child and teenager's mental health and wellbeing as being paramount to future success, leads to less successful adults.
At Blue Mountains Grammar School we are pioneering new inclusive and holistic approaches to student emotional and mental health, with an emphasis on frameworks that anchor and inspire students in an age appropriate way.
We intend to grow bravery and courage in students through the closed-loop ‘inclusive’ approach. This process has a sixfold platform;
- Connect – Build intentional positive and professional relationships with students.
- Equip – Create learning frameworks that enable quality and research-based information to be shared in a safe and supportive environment, where it can be questioned, pondered and applied.
- Challenge – Engage the difficult, the painful, the awkward with clarity, hope and purpose. Be brave so students feel they have the permission to be brave.
- Appreciate – Intentional cultivation of gratitude, thankfulness and hope through targeted initiatives that are specific for your context and setting.
- Serve – Enable action through service to others to grow capacities in students to be carriers of messages of hope and change for other young people. Student led and student created.
- Anchor – Reimage the story of wellbeing and mental health in your context, reinforce the help available and allow space daily to create opportunities for dialogue that is safe and supportive.
Schools need to start an ongoing, intentional and inclusive conversation with students specifically in but not limited to Years 9 and 10 and Years 11 and 12 with measurable outcomes and timely feedback.
Daily sessions are part of a new course we are taking in establishing new culture.
Equipping staff on all levels to be able to engage and track wellbeing, clear and concise channels of communication and developing sustainable relationships with experts are a few ingredients.
Having a holistic approach to wellbeing enables students to thrive.
Being proactive in this area gives our students the ability to become informed decision makers, equipped with the skills and tools to identify areas of self-improvement and self-empowerment.
Improved student wellbeing has direct links to the lowering of negative and high level risk taking. The past fifteen years of my research and practise has proven this to be true.
As we continue to shine a light on sensitive issues with our students, let us be brave and courageous to be proactive as communities when dealing with sensitive issues such as youth suicide.
May we empower our young people to help build the framework that is flexible and dynamic enough to change their world and the world around them.