25 August 2019, Tumut, NSW – In August, batyr delivered a number of workshops at Tumut High School to help facilitate the introduction of a wellbeing nurse as part of a NSW Government pilot program.
The aim of the NSW Government’s Wellbeing and Health In-Reach Nurse Coordinators pilot program (WHIN initiative) is to reduce the stigma around mental health, to improve mental health education and to encourage help-seeking.
The challenges facing regional communities
Young people in rural locations face stigma around mental health which often prevents them from reaching for support when they need it. The average help-seeking rate of young people (18-24) is 22% in Australia (Young Australians: Their health and wellbeing, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2011) and it’s even lower in regional communities.
Over the long-term, encouraging help-seeking leads to better outcomes for young people since it reduces the potential of more complex issues developing. Taking a preventative approach is key.
How has batyr supported the nurse pilot program at Tumut?
In August, batyr visited Tumut High School to deliver a number of programs that helped kickstart the mental conversation and encourage students to reach out for support when they need it, including from the school’s wellbeing nurse.
In total, we delivered:
- 4 [email protected] programs (one program per grade for years 9-12)
- A teacher PD program which empowered teachers to have open conversations with their students.
- A [email protected] chapter which allows students to continue and lead positive mental health conversations throughout the term (commences in term 4).
The programs taught students and teachers about what support services were available to them, including the wellbeing nurse, how to start a conversation with someone they know who may be struggling, and empowering them to seek support when they need it.
batyr received really positive feedback from students and teachers that attended our programs and workshops.
On average, more than 79% of students said they were engaged or highly engaged with the programs, and over 65% said they were more likely to seek help if they needed it.
One year 9 student said they liked how the speakers “were telling us their problems and how they overcame them”; another student (year 12) said “hearing from the speakers takes away the negative connotations associated with opening up.”
For teachers, 92% reported being more likely to seek help if they needed it, with one teacher stating that the teacher PD workshop was “practical and valuable to anyone working with young people.”
Tumut Wellbeing and Health In-Reach Nurse Caitlin Larter said that batyr made a real difference in educating students about the role of the wellbeing nurse in school.
She was particularly impressed by the teacher PD workshop, which she said helped deepen the understanding between the inverse relationship between health and education outcomes.
“I believe now teachers will be in a better position to identify and respond early to the social and emotional needs of the students within the school,” she said.
“I have seen an increase in students referrals, invitations to case meetings and more student self-referrals which is great, allowing me to feel more a part of the team within the school setting.”
Having been involved in a number of organisations and presentations across a range of school settings, Tumut head of wellbeing Andrew Somerville said that batyr’s programs were exceptionally well-received by both staff and students.
“The ‘lived experience’ philosophy and approach of batyr was one of the key aspects that sets it apart from a lot of other organisations,” Andrew said.
“Across the board this was the aspect of the program that had the most positive impact.”
“We love the concept of progressively sequenced themes for each year group into the future, now that the relationship has been established with the staff and students.”
What’s next for batyr and the nurse pilot program?
batyr looks forward to providing any further support to the NSW Government’s wellbeing nurse initiative in its capacity as a youth-led preventative mental health organisation.
batyr booking and program coordinator NSW Courtney Kovac said that working with rural and regional communities is something that is very important to her having attended a school in a town not too different from Tumut High.
“It has been really incredible to see NSW Health start the WHIN initiative and reach out to batyr as a preventative mental health organisation to support the transition of wellbeing nurse into these schools,” she said.
“We are proud to be supporting these communities and cannot wait for what’s to come.”
As part of the plan, batyr will travel to Young and Cooma in the first half of next year.
batyr recognises the need for mental health education in regional Australia and it’s definitely a focus for batyr as it delivers more programs across the country.