A new PhD research project funded by Australian Rotary Health and the /Rotary Club of Flemington Kensington PhD Scholarship. is aiming to equip schoolteachers with evidence-based strategies to tackle mental health problems in the classroom.

Former teacher and hD candidate Catherine Johnson knows first-hand about the impact a student’s sense of wellbeing has on their ability to learn and reach their potential.

“When I started in the classroom, my training did not prepare me for the complexity of student concerns and needs that arose, which led me to want to explore how to best provide training to teachers in supporting student mental health,” Ms Johnson said.

Catherine is working under the supervision of Dr Laura Hart, one of the brains behind teen Mental Health First Aid.

The aim of this project is to develop evidence-based guidelines and training for teachers on how to best support primary aged children with emerging mental health problems in the classroom.

“In the wake of COVID-19 and the associated periods of remote learning, teachers will require more information than ever before on how to support the mental health of children,” Ms Johnson said.

“The proposed training would aim to increase teacher self-efficacy and confidence in using evidence-based strategies that are known to support children with mental health problems to fully engage in learning and minimise the impact of symptoms on functioning.”

Ms Johnson will conduct three studies during her PhD candidature, starting with a review of the scientific literature to determine existing strategies which teachers could use to provide classroom-based support to children.

An expert consensus study involving teachers, mental health professionals and young people with lived experience of mental health problems will then be conducted to determine best practice strategies for the classroom.

Lastly, Ms Johnson will co-design and pilot test a training package with teachers that can be delivered to primary school teachers and education staff.

“Given the central role that schooling plays in children’s lives and mental health, training teachers is a feasible, community-based intervention with clear benefits to children aged 5-12 years,” Ms Johnson said.

“If we better equip teachers to recognise and respond to mental health problems early through the use of supportive, evidence-based strategies in the classroom, we could significantly improve the mental wellbeing of Australia’s children and lessen the long-term negative impact of mental health problems.”

Mental health problems in children are common, with as many as 1 in 7 Australian children aged 4 to 11 years experiencing a diagnosable mental illness, such as anxiety, in any one year.

Donate to research today to support the mental health of children aged 0-12.

Equipping Teachers to Respond to Mental Health Problems in the Classroom – Australian Rotary Health