Educators are more worried about children’s mental health than obesity, survey says
Early childhood education and care (ECEC) educators and those working with school age children have revealed their major health concern for children, ranking the harm caused by poorly managed mental health above that of obesity and substance abuse, a survey from Beyond Blue has revealed.
The snapshot survey was completed by 431 educators from a range of service types, and showed that 86 per cent of respondents named mental health issues among the top three major health concerns for children, compared with 65 per cent who identified obesity and 54 per cent who named drug and alcohol abuse.
Two out of three educators believed anxiety was the most common mental health issue for children and young people with one in five naming depression.
The results of the survey have been announced as Beyond Blue Chair Julia Gillard visits South Australia’s Unley High School to speak about Beyond Blue mental health initiative for early childhood and school settings, Be You.
More than 4,400 ECEC and school sites have signed up to the Be You initiative following its launch in November last year. Ms Gillard pointed to the sign up figures and survey results as being indicative of a commitment by educators to support the children they educate and care for.
“Educators understand that mentally healthy kids learn better; that academic learning goes hand in hand with social and emotional learning; and that mentally healthy learning communities achieve the best outcomes for everyone – children, staff and families,” Ms Gillard said.
Survey findings of interest to the ECEC sector include:
- 97 per cent of survey respondents recognised the importance of working in an environment that valued staff mental health;
- Almost half – 46 per cent – said they had difficulty knowing when it was appropriate to provide support to children and young people
- While the majority (63 per cent) said they have the confidence to address the mental health needs of children nearly half said they needed the tools and resources to help them do so.
Georgie Harman, CEO of Beyond Blue, said that the Be You program is specifically designed to address the concerns educators highlighted in the survey, equipping them with the tools and information they need to manage and handle any challenges presented to them in working with children experiencing mental health difficulties, whilst managing their own mental health and wellbeing.
“Educators are not counsellors – and nobody expects them to be – but they know and care about the children and young people they teach. They are often the first to recognise when something’s not right and they want to know the best way to respond,” Ms Harman said.
The Be You initiative is funded by the Commonwealth Government, and is delivered by Beyond Blue, working in partnership with Early Childhood Australia and headspace. The program offers ECEC sites free access to “expert staff, strategies, accredited professional development and information about how to support good mental health and wellbeing, and when and how to support students who are struggling.”
Further information about the program can be accessed here.