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Save the Children: response to Victorian Liberal Party calling for mental health support for every school child in Victoria

There’s no doubt Victorian kids are hurting right now. Mr Guy is right when he says mental health support is urgently needed, but we’d go further and say that prevention is always better than cure.
08 September 2021

Quotes attributable to Executive Director of Save the Children’s Australian Services, Matt Gardiner:
 
“There’s no doubt Victorian kids are hurting right now. Mr Guy is right when he says mental health support is urgently needed, but we’d go further and say that prevention is always better than cure. On top of existing mental health supports in schools, children need to have access to a specialist program that builds resilience for the longer term and across the whole community.
 
“Children are resilient, but they are also uniquely vulnerable in disasters like the Black Summer bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic. They need tailored support to recover. Schools are ideal places to provide this support, but school systems are already heavily overburdened. Specialist programs are urgently needed to complement existing efforts.
 
“Save the Children is already offering our highly successful Journey of Hope program in selected schools across Victoria to support children affected by lockdowns. It can even be delivered online under lockdown.
 
“This program has already helped thousands of children in Victoria recover from the Black Summer bushfires. It helps them identify and process emotions and helps them identify positive coping strategies to draw upon in the future.
 
“In fact, from July last year, Save the Children has delivered Journey of Hope to more than 5000 children in schools from fire affected communities in NSW and Victoria. This included 77 schools, 59 of those in NSW and 18 in Victoria.

 
“We would love to see every child in Victoria have access to the incredible Journey of Hope program and would welcome the opportunity to discuss how this could happen with Mr Guy and the Victorian Labor Government.”
 
Quotes attributable to Save the Children’s Director for Victoria, NSW and SA, Catherine Harris:
 
“COVID-19 has placed great pressure on children’s mental health and wellbeing. Lost routines and sources of stability and support, fear of the virus and its effects on family and friends and for some children, risks of exposure to violence are contributing to rising stress and anxiety.
 
“Children need specialist programs, delivered through schools, that focus on promoting mental wellbeing through early intervention and preventative measures rather than trying to address mental ill-health once problems emerge.

 
“What has worked for thousands of children recovering from the Black Summer bushfires and subsequent flooding in NSW and Victoria, is also perfect for COVID-19 support and recovery to build lasting protection against psychological distress, instead of one off, reactive treatment.”
 
About Journey of Hope

Journey of Hope is a school-based group-work intervention for children and early adolescents who have experienced a collective trauma, such as a natural hazard or disaster.
 
This program that helps young people build resilience and develop new ways to cope with worry and anxiety in uncertain times. The program is suitable for children aged four to 18.
 
Journey of Hope was first implemented after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and developed with children and educators. The program has since been delivered to more than 85,000 children in numerous countries, including an adaptation in New Zealand following the Christchurch earthquake and now in Australia to respond to bushfires and floods – and now COVID-19.
 
Through rigorous evaluation, including by the International Institute for Children’s Rights and Development, Journey of Hope has been shown to improve student social and emotional well-being, as well as knowledge and skills3, by: 

  • Teaching children to recognise and manage their emotions, which builds confidence, self-esteem, and ‘I believe I can’ attitudes. 
  • Developing positive peer relationships, which help children experience a collaborative environment based on respect and understanding. 
  • Reducing disruptive behaviours, which supports more concentrated learning in class.
The Journey of Hope program is tailored for four age groups: 
  • Early Years into Lower Primary – children aged 4-7
  • Middle Primary – children aged 8-10
  • Late Primary to Early High School – young people aged 11-13
  • Mid to late High School – young people aged 14-18

 
Journey of Hope also includes a workshop to help parents and caregivers look after themselves, so they can provide better support for the children in their care.

ENDS

Media contact: Angus Smith 0488 330 882 or media.team@savethechildren.org.au

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