Published on October 8th, 2015 | by St Peter's College


Mental Health Begins With Me

Recently, I read that a quarter of young Australians report they are unhappy with their lives. It shows that we require strong vision and action to help young people have the tools to lead flourishing lives. This week across the country, Australians will participate in National Mental Health Week, culminating in World Mental Health Day on Saturday 10 October.

Increasingly, schools are beginning to understand the importance of preventative approaches for mental health. The National Mental Health Week campaign is supported by the continuing growth of the International Positive Education Network (IPEN) and the Positive Education Schools Association (PESA).

Teaching about mental wellbeing is increasingly recognised as an essential part of a great education. But people still scratch their heads and ask, ‘Why? Isn’t this a distraction from reading, writing or arithmetic?’ I think the following statistics reinforce the importance of mental health for every school when we consider:

  • One in four young Australians currently has a mental health condition.
  • One in six young Australians is currently experiencing an anxiety condition.
  • One in 16 young Australians is currently experiencing depression.

Adopting a preventative approach to mental health, St Peter’s College introduced its internationally acclaimed whole-school wellbeing strategy in 2011, and positive education programs across the school in 2013. ‘Positive education’ is an umbrella term used to describe scientifically validated programs of positive psychology that can have an impact on student wellbeing. This has recently been published as a book by Springer and has received excellent reviews from across the globe.

Our wellbeing strategy built upon the traditional pastoral care model already applied within the school by focusing on teaching, building, and embedding social and emotional learning throughout a boy’s experience at Saints.

During National Mental Health week, Australians will have the chance to view many powerful, inspiring and moving programs on ABCTV and help raise critical funds to support mental health research. Beyondblue reports that ‘young people see mental health as a more important issue than things such as the environment, bullying, education and employment’. I see this strength of character in the commitment of our young leaders at St Peter’s College.

In August this year, our School Captain and Vice-Captain secured the patronage of Professor Patrick McGorry AO for a mental wellbeing campaign to be run across the schools. They galvanised the whole of the Senior School for a week to raise awareness and money for beyondblue and the Society for Mental Heath Research (SMHR), the major body of mental health researchers in Australia.

The student led week was wrapped up with a presentation in assembly by Jason Ball, an Ambassador for the Safe Schools Coalition, beyondblue and Government Liaison and Project Officer at Young and Well CRC. Finally a Going beyondblue Round for all School sports played on Saturday 8 August, in which over 500 students from St Peter’s College and other participating schools wore blue armbands to raise awareness. The funds raised will enable SMHR to support researchers to find new ways to help Australians with mental illness.

One person can make a difference. Just as I am inspired by our Captain and Vice-Captain who spurred their peers to an inspiring mental health week at Saints, I am inspired by the pioneering work of one of our Old Scholars, Dr Basil Hetzel AC, who, in 1956, became a founding member of the South Australian Mental Health Association and, along with other members, went on to assist with the establishment of Lifeline, a non-profit organisation that provides free, 24-hour Telephone Crisis Support service.

Ahead of this year’s World Mental Health Day, I recommit my ‘Mental Health begins with me’ pledge from last year. I urge each of you to join the ‘Mental Health begins with me’ campaign.


  • Suicide is the biggest killer of young Australians and accounts for the deaths of more young people than car accidents. 324 Australians (10.5 per 100,000) aged 15-24 committed suicide in 2012. This compares to 198 (6.4 per 100,000) who died in car accidents (the second highest killer).
  • If you think that you may be suffering from one of these conditions or know someone who is, there is always someone to help. For more information go to beyondblue.org or phone the beyondblue Support Services on 1300 22 4636.

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