Whether the young people at our independent high school, EDEN College, are experiencing relationship difficulties, a crisis, or child protection concerns, Sally Roseby helps guide them through whatever challenge they are facing.
What does the mental health support you provide look like?
It’s dependent on the issue. If it’s a low-risk issue, the support is determined by the young person. I do my best to build rapport with them by spending time with them at recess and lunch, in class, and on activities.
I try to be a friendly face around the school to break down the stigma of being a psychologist. I might do traditional counselling in my counselling room, or we might go for walks around the block and talk.
Students with higher-risk challenges can choose to engage with me, but I check in more often and ask more direct questions.
I’m there as a support and somebody they can come to. They can seek me out casually, or we can have a booked appointment.
What is unique about our mental health support?
Youth Off The Streets’ schools each have psychologists and counsellors available. Government schools rarely have a full-time psychologist on-site, and if they do, different people might job-share the role.
Having a familiar face is beneficial. Many of our students have experienced trauma, and it takes a long time to develop relationships with them. I’ve heard many students say they’ve appreciated that it’s the same person they can talk to, and not someone they don’t know well.
What are some of the reasons young people might need to talk to you?
There are many reasons why they seek out support. Some young people can have underlying symptoms of anxiety, depression, or trauma. Often it’s very much there, but they might never have been assessed for it or they have felt reluctant to engage in treatment.
Sometimes their challenges can impact their functioning at school. There might be domestic violence at home. For others, they feel anxious and they aren’t sure why.
Despite these challenges, they still turn up to school and see the importance of education for their future.
Anything we can do to help them get through what’s happening is a real privilege for us.
Have you seen an increase in the need for mental health support because of the pandemic?
EDEN College is located in South West Sydney, and we’re seeing young people going through more family troubles because there’s a lot more stress on families. There isn’t the government support this lockdown that there was last time, and we’re seeing family breakdowns as well as young people needing to leave because of violence. When they’re ready, they’ll tell us and ask for the support that they need.
We also have student support youth workers that form part of the wellbeing team at our schools. A young person might feel more comfortable going and talking with the youth worker. Over time, the youth worker might break down the stigma and then invite me as a psychologist into the conversation.
Once you’ve developed the relationship, the young people are pretty open if you’re asking the right questions. I believe they know that we want the best for them.
Why is it essential that we prioritise mental health support in our schools?
Disadvantage, stress, and trauma are factors that can impact people’s mental health and wellbeing. Our students are affected by many of these factors. We must prioritise mental health support for the sake of their education.
Their social and emotional wellbeing forms the foundation for learning and being their best self in the classroom.
If their mental health isn’t being looked after, it would be challenging to achieve academic growth.
How can people support young people who are experiencing difficulties with their mental health?
It’s essential to look out for any changes in how they’re behaving. Do your best to understand what the young person is going through. We need the adults in their lives to listen to them and don’t necessarily come from a position of authority, but try to help by doing things with them, not for them.
Read more about our mental health support here.