Why student wellbeing programs in schools are so important

More than ever before, wellbeing programs in schools are vital for student mental health and the promotion of life-long healthy behaviours.

HEALTH BREAKS HEALTHY SCHOOLS PROGRAM

More than ever before, wellbeing programs in schools are vital for student mental health and the promotion of life-long healthy behaviours.

It is common for mental health issues to emerge early in life. Half of all mental problems emerge by the time children reach 14 years and 75% of mental health dosorders emerge by the age of 25 years. This aligns with the schooling years of most of our youth and highlights the importance of the school environment. (1)

Mental health and wellbeing programs offered in the school setting provide an opportunity for young people to learn self-management skills that promote positive mental wellbeing and also raise awareness of choices for accessing resources and services that are health-promoting. School mental health programs also help students to:

  • flourish academically and socially
  • build resilience against set-backs and uncertainty
  • develop self-management and positive behavioural skills 
  • build awareness and confidence to self-seek help for early intervention and management (1)

“Our kids deserve to grow up healthy and happy and after their family and friends, our schools are one of the biggest supports in a young person’s life.
As we build our mental health system from the ground up, we’re putting schools at the centre of our response –
helping to make sure they have everything they need to support their students, families and communities. ” (The Hon James Merlino MP) (2)

The Australian Council of Education and Research reviewed 78 studies of wellbeing interventions delivered in primary or secondary schools, most of which were US based due to availability of data. Students in school-based wellbeing programs had positive impacts on social-emotional, behavioural and cognitive adjustment. The study also found a positive effect on general academic performance equivalent to three months of additional learning. (3)

The importance of the role of health and wellbeing within the school setting is reflected in the 2021-22 Victorian State Budget allocation of $277 mill of funding being directed to address school based wellbeing programs. (2)

A multi-faceted approach to delivering school-based health and wellbeing programs is required, with areas such as resilience, diversity and inclusion, alcohol and drug education, and sexual education falling under the health umbrella. Crisis and counselling support has also emerged as an important component of school-based wellbeing programs and this highlights the need to utilse a range of resources and servuces to deliver the full expanse of student health and wellbeing programs. (4)

Delivering preventative and positive health and wellbeing education and activities is another crucial component of effective student health and wellbing programs. This includes:

  1. Physical activity promotion
  2. Healthy eating activities and promotion
  3. Mindfulness and self-care for mental wellbeing programs and activities

According to research cited by Education Department, NSW Government, movement breaks within a classroom setting are highly effective for addressing physical wellbeing. Research shows that integrating physical activity into learning has the following benefits:

  • renewed energy and increased oxygen levels,

  • increased oxygen improves focus and memory,

  • increased efficiency in learning,

  • gives brains time to process information,

  • developing social skills through movement,

  • enhanced academic achievement (6)

In addition, building capacity to ensure program sustainability and effective health outcomes is highly important. Educating and nurturing students to provide peer support and providing easy to use teacher resources and tools are an important part of successful health programs.
Health Break’s Healthy and Active Schools program sits squarley in this space. Emphasising easy to use tools, resources for teachers to access and deliver classroom based wellbeing activities for their students.
 
A comprehensive education and training program for student leaders to become health champs and provide peer encouragement and support is another aspect of the Health Breaks program.
Find out about the Health Breaks Healthy Schools Program, including  Movement and Calming Breaks and Peer Health Champ Program here.
 

References

  1. Victorian State Government, Department of Education and Training, https://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/teachers/health/mentalhealth/Pages/promoting-mental-health.aspx
  2. Media Release, Victorian Government  21-22 Budget, https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/supporting-our-kids-be-healthy-and-happy-0
  3. Dix K, Ahmed S, Carslake T, Sniedze-Gregory S, O’Grady E and  Trevitt J, Student health & wellbeing: A systematic review of intervention research examining effective student wellbeing in schools and their academic outcomes,  (ACER) for Evidence for Learning, Social Ventures Australia 2020.
  4. NSW Government, Education Department, Movement Breaks, https://education.nsw.gov.au/student-wellbeing/whole-school-approach/wellbeing-framework-for-schools/physical-wellbeing-strategies/movement-breaks-for-physical-wellbeing

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Promoting active and healthy schools