In recent years, the landscape surrounding mental health has shifted considerably. Significant progress has been made in destigmatising mental health issues and recognising the importance of supporting peers. Since adolescents spend a significant part of their week in high school, it is important that we use this opportunity to educate and encourage them around mental health awareness and peer support.
High school is a time of significant growth and self-discovery. It can also be a period filled with challenges and uncertainties. The pressures of academics, social dynamics, and personal expectations can sometimes feel overwhelming. However, by building a culture of support and understanding, we can create an environment where students feel safe to express their emotions and seek help when needed.
One of the most powerful tools we have in supporting our peers is empathy. Empathy allows us to connect with others, recognise their struggles, and offer our support without judgment. When we take the time to understand someone else’s experiences and emotions, we create a foundation for genuine connection and support. Each of us possesses the ability to help someone who may be struggling in silence.
Normalising discussions around mental health is essential in breaking down the barriers that prevent people from seeking help. By openly discussing mental health, we send a message that it is ok not to be ok and that seeking support is a sign of strength, not weakness. High school is a crucial time for students to develop healthy coping mechanisms, resilience, and emotional intelligence. By fostering open discussion around mental health, we can encourage students to empower each other to confront challenges and seek the assistance they need.
With this in mind, during Week 4 the school counselling team presented to Year 7 students as part of the Pastoral program. The topic was ‘How to help a friend.’ During the presentation students were taught how to recognise that a peer/friend may not be coping, how to start a conversation raising this concern, how to react and offer support if the person opens up to them, how to connect them with support at school, how to take care of themselves throughout this process, and how to access online, telephone and community support services.
All students at ERC have access to school counselling with 2 full-time counsellors available for support. Referrals can be made through pastoral teachers, pastoral care coordinators, leadership, parents and carers (through contacting the school directly), and by students themselves (using the ‘I want to see a counsellor’ link at the bottom of the ERC bookmarks list). The school counsellors are happy to talk to parents about any concerns they might have about students.