HOPE: Carving out a safe space in schools to talk mental health

KeepHealthCare.ORG – HOPE: Carving out a safe space in schools to talk mental health

At the 2018 Heywire Regional Youth Summit, 54 young people from across Australia gathered to identify the most pressing issues facing them and their peers in regional Australia.

This group of young leaders asked themselves ‘how can we make schools a place where it’s ok to talk about mental health?’

Here’s what they came up with.


Young people spend most of their waking hours at school.

A lack of sympathy, understanding and basic knowledge of mental health can make school a lonely and isolating place.

HOPE stands for ‘Helping Our Peers Educate’.

We want to build a better understanding of basic mental health alongside a more educated network of peers who can connect each other to help.

We want to help erase the stigma of mental health through open conversation, mentorship and team building.

HOPE will make schools a safer place.

Workshops invite mental health experts and community leaders to teach the basics of mental health, connect students to resources already available in the community, and share real life stories of dealing with mental illness.

Junior students are paired with mentors from the senior years to participate in team building activities and educational workshops, learn good mental health practices like mindfulness and breathing exercises, and be taught the basics of mental health first aid.

All students would come away with a better understanding of mental health, less fear around talking about mental illness and resources for accessing help. HOPE would create friendships and support networks between students.

They would learn together, teach each other and create connections that would make school a better place for fostering good mental health.

We all need HOPE.

Why this matters to us

Jessica McWilliams of Dubbo, New South Wales has been affected knows the need for services such as HOPE more than most, as these issues have affected her life in a very personal way.

“Suicide is the leading cause of death for 15-24 year-olds in Australia,” she said.

“Globally, one person takes their own life every 40 seconds.

“My younger brother and father form part of this statistic.

“And I was almost part of it too.

“HOPE could mean the difference between a child, like me, not getting out of bed in the morning and them actually wanting to go to school.”

“Imagine a town without mental health services and no one to go talk to,” Zurack Dempsey of Cloncurry, Queensland said.

“Well, that’s where I’m from — Cloncurry.

“We have one of the highest suicide rates in Queensland.

“HOPE could mean that suicide rates will drop in remote towns like mine.”

Could your community adopt this idea?

Our idea could be adopted by youth and community groups or schools.

Through a partnership with local health services, such as yoga or meditation clinics, primary health networks or headspace centres, students can improve their mental health and that of their peers.

To help make this idea a reality in your community, apply for an FRRR ABC Heywire Youth Innovation Grant of up to $10,000.

Apply via the online portal. Applications close May 14.

Apply for a grant now.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/heywire/hope/9551544

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