Youth Mental Health and Year 10: Teen Mental Health First-Aid Course

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in four young people aged four to 17 years experiences a mental health condition. Research has shown that half of all mental health conditions emerge by the age of 14, and three-quarters by age 24. However, identifying issues early and getting a young person into the right support and treatment can change lives. Adolescence is a critical time for mental health and around 550,000 young people aged 16 to 24 years live with depression or anxiety.

The prevalence of common mental health issues such as depression and anxiety is increasing for a plethora of complicated and varied reasons in Australian youth today, and sadly, according to Youth Beyond Blue, over 75 per cent of Australian adolescents with serious mental health problems do not seek help from health services. This is extremely concerning, as like many health concerns, if left untreated, mental health conditions can become very disabling. Seeking help as early as possible can reduce suffering and assist in facilitating strategies to enable recovery.

With this in mind, the Teen Mental Health First-Aid (teen MHFA) course has been incorporated into the Year 10 Core Health program. This course began in Australia and is now taught in over 25 countries worldwide. Teen MHFA is a program that teaches young people the skill set to:

  • Recognise the signs of mental health problems developing.
  • Recognise the signs of a mental health crisis, particularly suicide.
  • Get a responsible and trusted adult to take over as necessary.

Our School Counsellor, Ms Amelia King, completed the necessary training to become an accredited teen MHFA instructor, which has enabled her to conduct this course for our Year 10 students over the last two years. Teen MHFA gives our students the skills they need to recognise and help with mental health problems and crises in their friends, and to get the help of an adult quickly. Young people naturally often turn to each other for support when upset or stressed. A strong message throughout the course is that although friends can be very helpful, it is important for young people not to take on these problems alone. Getting an adult involved can sometimes be seen as a betrayal of trust, however, the course teaches students when it is okay just to continue to be a friend, or try to, and when you need to get a trusted adult involved to help.

Additionally, the teen MHFA course focuses on tackling the existing stigma of mental health problems, which is a major factor that contributes to those suffering mental health problems not seeking help.

The teen MHFA course teaches a specific ‘action plan’, which contains simple steps for adolescents to follow. The action plan is practiced in a variety of different scenarios through small group discussion during the course.

Research undertaken on the benefits of teen MHFA shows that students who receive the training show better recognition of mental health problems, greater confidence offering help to friends, and are more likely to turn to a trusted adult for support when needed.

Below is some feedback provided by the Year 10 students at the completion of the course:

“I feel like I can help people effectively now and am happy to think that my friends can do the same.”

“Very useful course. In some way, it normalises the idea of helping someone you know, making it less intimidating.”

“This course deepened my insight on mental health and its importance.”

“We learnt the difference between a mental health crisis and a mental health problem.”

“I think this course is really important, as many people cannot handle their issues or their friends’ issues.”

“The course was really helpful as I think I can help my friends properly now.”

“It really interested me and I am glad I know this now in case I need it in the future.”

“This program has allowed us to recognise mental health issues and provide us with vital skills that are useful to apply to our daily lives.”

“The videos and group discussion really made sense to me.”

Tips For Looking After Your Mental Health and Wellbeing

Listed below are a number of the many simple strategies recommended by Beyond Blue that can be incorporated into everyone’s daily life to assist in promoting good mental health and wellbeing.

Develop a Regular Sleeping Pattern

Sleep is important for our bodies to recover and recharge. Without it, it can be hard to concentrate and remember things. Without sleep, you will also have problems with your energy levels. To develop a regular sleeping pattern, it is useful to:

  • Get up at the same time each morning.
  • Avoid too much caffeine or alcohol late in the afternoon.
  • Write your worries down before going to bed so you can work on some solutions the next day.
  • Do something relaxing for about 30 minutes before going to bed.
  • Avoid naps in the day.
  • Get up after 15 to 20 minutes if you cannot sleep rather than staying in bed feeling restless – return to bed when you feel more relaxed or sleepy.
  • Get active every day.

Simple Relaxation Techniques

  • Relax by learning to control your breathing.
  • Gently breathe in and hold your breath for five seconds.
  • Breathe out counting to five, then breathe in and out slowly, through your nose, counting to three with each breath in and out.
  • Breathe this way for about 10 breaths then start at step one again until you are calm.
  • Practise this when you are not anxious so that you can use it quickly when you feel your anxiety increasing.

Other tips:

  • Healthy diet
  • Keep active
  • Reduce stress
  • Avoid or limit alcohol and drug use
  • Meditation. 
National Help Lines and Websites

Black Dog Institute
Information on symptoms, treatment and prevention of depression and bipolar disorder.

Carers Australia
Short-term counselling and emotional and psychological support services for carers and their families in each state and territory.

Embrace Multicultural Mental Health
A national platform for multicultural communities and Australian mental health services to access resources, services and information in a culturally accessible format.

Free online and telephone service that supports young people aged between 12 and 25 and their families going through a tough time.

Kids Helpline
A free, private and confidential, telephone and online counselling service specifically for young people aged between five and 25.

MensLine Australia
A telephone and online support, information and referral service, helping men to deal with relationship problems in a practical and effective way.

Head to Health
An innovative website that can help you find free and low-cost, trusted online and phone mental health resources. 

QLife is Australia’s first nationally-oriented counselling and referral service for LGBTI people. The project provides nation-wide, early intervention, peer supported telephone and web based services to diverse people of all ages experiencing poor mental health, psychological distress, social isolation, discrimination, experiences of being misgendered and/or other social determinants that impact on their health and wellbeing.

Relationships Australia
A provider of relationship support services for individuals, families and communities.

SANE Australia
Information about mental illness, treatments, where to go for support and help.

Support After Suicide
Information, resources, counselling and group support to those bereaved by suicide. Education and professional development to health, welfare and education professionals.

MindSpot Clinic
An online and telephone clinic providing free assessment and treatment services for Australian adults with anxiety or depression.

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO)
Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and Aboriginal Medical Services in each state and territory.

Beyond Blue: Support Groups and Online Forums
Talking about what is going on with others who understand – or may be going through something similar – can really make a difference. The Black Dog Institute have a list of support groups in every state and territory that can help you connect with groups of people who meet regularly to discuss their experiences, their problems and their strategies for coping.

The Beyond Blue online forums are also a great way to connect with people online, in a safe and anonymous environment, to discuss anxiety, depression, suicide and a range of life issues. Anyone in Australia can participate in discussions, connect with others and share their experiences with our community.

School Support
Ms Amelia King, St Catherine’s School Counsellor, is always available for students or parents who may like to discuss any health and wellbeing concerns, and has a number of Apps that she recommends to promote positive mental health and wellbeing.

Other Websites:

Ms Debbie Thompson, Head of Health and Physical Education