Men­tal health pi­lot project in city schools earns praise

Spe­cial­ists em­bed­ded in schools to tackle anx­i­ety

Bay of Plenty Times - - Local News - Scott Yeo­man

PHOTO / GE­ORGE NO­VAK

Anew men­tal health ini­tia­tive in Tau­ranga schools and early child­hood cen­tres has earned a favourable men­tion in a widerang­ing re­port into New Zealand’s men­tal health sys­tem.

For the past year, Otu¯moetai’s ¯ Ka¯hui Ako – Com­mu­ni­ties of Learn­ing – net­work has been pi­lot­ing a well­be­ing pro­gramme with the Bay of Plenty Dis­trict Health Board.

Two spe­cial­ist child and ado­les­cent men­tal health clin­i­cians have been em­bed­ded into the schools with the aim of ad­dress­ing anx­i­ety, re­silience and other is­sues early.

The three-year pi­lot pro­gramme, which is also in the early stages of devel­op­ment with the Whakata¯ne Ka¯hui Ako, was briefly cited as a pos­i­tive case study in the Re­port of the Gov­ern­ment In­quiry into Men­tal Health and Ad­dic­tion, re­leased this week.

Theresa Ros­bor­ough, Otu¯moetai ¯ Ka¯hui Ako learn­ing sup­port co-or­di­na­tor, spoke pas­sion­ately about the pro­gramme when the in­quiry panel was in Tau­ranga ear­lier this year.

She said the panel then came back to her with more ques­tions, and took great in­ter­est in what was be­ing done.

“They liked the fact that it was start­ing young. They liked the fact it was in the school it­self, but it wasn’t a des­ig­nated nurse role.”

O¯tu¯moetai’s Ka¯hui Ako in­cludes 26 early child­hood cen­tres and nine schools.

Ros­bor­ough said there were con­cerns about ris­ing lev­els of anx­i­ety and lack of re­silience in the stu­dents, from early child­hood all the way up.

“Re­silience means hav­ing that grit, hav­ing that per­se­ver­ance, hav­ing that will­ing­ness to make a mis­take, not get up­set about it and come back and try again. It’s the bounce-back.”

She has been work­ing in spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion for more than 40 years and said a lack of re­silience had be­come more no­tice­able in the class­room, and so had anx­i­ety.

“Just an over­all be­ing scared of the world, that kind of anx­i­ety. We’ve al­ways had the be­hav­iours, but now we’d be look­ing more at the be­hav­iours where they melt down and don’t seem to cope and find so­lu­tions.”

She said the two spe­cial­ist men­tal health clin­i­cians had worked with dozens of chil­dren across the school net­work this year, and the num­ber was in­creas­ing all the time as more cases were un­cov­ered.

They mainly worked with mild and mod­er­ate cases as the pro­gramme was all about early in­ter­ven­tion, but they also helped con­nect high-need cases with the DHB’s Ma­ter­nal, In­fant, Child and Ado­les­cent Men­tal Health Ser­vice.

“They are on the spot, and that’s been the ad­van­tage in this,” Ros­bor­ough said.

“They’ve been on the spot for the child. They sit in the staffroom and can have a con­ver­sa­tion with a teacher over a cup of cof­fee. It’s that im­me­di­acy.”

She said the Ka¯hui Ako was work­ing on the holis­tic well­be­ing of chil­dren across the school net­work and that held an over­all im­por­tance in ev­ery­thing it con­sid­ered. “If you can help a lit­tle one in pri­mary school and early child­hood to un­der­stand that the world isn’t go­ing to fall down if they can’t do some­thing, then you build the re­silience in,” she said.

Les­ley Watkins, the DHB’s port­fo­lio man­ager for men­tal health and ad­dic­tion ser­vices – plan­ning and fund­ing, was the one who got the pi­lot ini­tia­tive started.

She said for a num­ber of years strat­egy doc­u­ments in men­tal health ser­vices had en­cour­aged ear­lier in­ter­ven­tion and is­sues were be­ing seen in “younger and younger” chil­dren in Tau­ranga.

“Kids were com­ing into se­condary schools al­ready with a whole range of is­sues that re­ally hadn’t been dealt with.”

Watkins saw the Otu¯moetai ¯ Ka¯hui Ako learn­ing sup­port pro­gramme as an op­por­tu­nity to try some­thing new, and pitched the idea to the school net­work.

The dis­trict health board had al­ready un­der­taken a sim­i­lar way of work­ing with Cor­rec­tions and had seen how

O¯ tu¯moetai Ka¯hui Ako

■ 26 early child­hood cen­tres

■ Beth­le­hem School

■ Brook­field School

■ Belle­vue School

■ Matua School

■ Pil­lans Point School

■ Otu­moetai Pri­mary

■ Otu­moetai In­ter­me­di­ate School

■ Te Wharekura o Mauao

■ Otu­moetai Col­lege

"Re­silience means hav­ing that grit, hav­ing that per­se­ver­ance, hav­ing that will­ing­ness to make a mis­take, not get up­set about it and come back and try again."

Theresa Ros­bor­ough, O¯ tu¯moetai Ka¯hui Ako learn­ing sup­port co-or­di­na­tor

valu­able spe­cial­ist clin­i­cians work­ing in­house was.

“You build un­der­stand­ing and also re­duce the stigma and dis­crim­i­na­tion that of­ten sits around men­tal health and ad­dic­tion is­sues.”

The O¯tu¯moetai pi­lot pro­gramme had gen­er­ated plenty of pos­i­tive feed­back, Watkins said, as well as di­vert­ing some re­fer­rals from the Ma­ter­nal, In­fant, Child and Ado­les­cent Men­tal Health Ser­vice and had led to a bet­ter re­la­tion­ship be­tween the schools and the ser­vice.

Watkins said the two ex­pe­ri­enced clin­i­cians had also been able to help with learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties and di­ag­no­sis.

“Rather than need­ing to wait un­til some­one’s very sick or a child is re­ally strug­gling at school, we want them to be as­sisted with their learn­ing and to know why some­thing might not be work­ing for them, and be able to do that as early on as pos­si­ble, from a men­tal health per­spec­tive.”

Theresa Ros­bor­ough, Otu­moetai Ka¯hui Ako learn­ing sup­port co-or­di­na­tor, is keen to nur­ture re­silience in pupils.

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