Teachers on the "front-line" of mental health at Wodonga Senior Secondary College

Wodonga Senior Secondary College’s Matt Moylan
Wodonga Senior Secondary College’s Matt Moylan

Teachers are on the “front-line” of safeguarding the mental health of young people, the assistant principal of a Border high school has said.

And with schools seen as the “number one protective factor in preventing suicide”, mental health training for staff and students was a high priority, Wodonga Senior Secondary College’s Matt Moylan said.

His comments come in the wake of a backlash from schools claiming they had been unfairly put in the firing line at the Albury-Wodonga headspace report card on September 6.

Only three schools - including Wodonga Senior Secondary College, Catholic College Wodonga and Wangaratta High School – had representatives at the three-hour forum that delivered a detailed report on the young people seeking help from headspace.

Focus groups at the event said there was a clear need for awareness-raising and engagement with schools.

They called for mental health first aid to be a core component of curriculums.

But Mr Moylan said the college was one of many schools in the region already on the front foot in delivering comprehensive mental health programs both in and out of the classroom.

Principal Cassandra Walters stated on Facebook that 140 of its teachers and support staff had been trained in youth mental health first aid and the course was being rolled out to 323 Year 10 students in 2017.

Mr Moylan said the college worked closely with Albury-Wodonga headspace and other support agencies to “help stop young people falling through the gaps”.

He added that awareness of mental health issues was an increasingly large part of modern-day teaching.

“We are a lead school in this area and teachers are on the front line of mental health,” Mr Moylan said.

“Our approach is underpinned by the SAFEMinds programs developed in conjunction with the Department of Education and headspace.”

Mr Moylan said anxiety was one of the biggest issues affecting students.

“It could be in relation to family, school and expectations, friendships (including online) or problems with drugs and alcohol – it’s not one single thing,” he said.