SunLive – Battle for support for mental health in schools

Teachers are struggling with mental health issues and the Ministry of Education is not doing enough to help, says Ashlee Sturme, educational wellbeing adviser at FLAX (Mental Health Coaches in Education).

“The Ministry of Education has a long history of not supporting schools in the necessary way. “They must step up to support our teachers to achieve better results for our tamariki.”

Ashlee held a workshop with teachers in January and asked them to write on a sticky note what their biggest concern was and what was impacting them at that moment.

She says it basically came down to three main categories: money, loved ones and her own health.

“Some of our teachers have some pretty significant health issues, but they’re still in the classroom every day.”

She says the causes of stress vary depending on schools and children’s needs, and often depend on school culture.

For some teachers it was about relationships with colleagues or management teams or managing workload, for others it was about changing nappies in primary schools or having several undiagnosed or unsupported children with behavioral problems.

In her governance roles, Ashlee says she has heard many different stories about parents who misbehave, “keep in mind that most parents actually want the best for their children. They are very emotional or they see nothing wrong with bursting into the classroom first thing in the morning and telling the teacher what they think.”

“It is very stressful for the teacher and the other children around them and often leads to no results anyway. School processes are designed to better support parents, teachers and children, but they are often circumvented.

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“I have heard stories of schools being invaded by parents coming onto school grounds and becoming abusive to the principal and I have heard of parents lashing out at other parents.

“They have the perception that if their son is bullying my son, then they can take matters into their own hands.”

Ashlee says the lack of financial support for students with behavioral issues is a huge problem.

“The impact of outbursts, threatening behavior and other incidents cannot be underestimated.

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“All of these different factors greatly impact teacher well-being. It’s a huge circus of chaos.

“If we can support our school leaders, our teachers and our educators to be well, then they can go into the classroom and be well for their students.

“The Ministry of Education is not doing enough to try to support teachers and students.”

Ashlee says getting support from the ministry is useless.

“For example, to get funding for a child who needs extra support, the teacher and principal have to jump through these ridiculous hoops when trying to apply, and are usually rejected. However, the school and teacher have the obligation to meet that student’s needs without additional resources. Nobody wins here.

“Children come to school with histories of trauma and poverty. They arrive at school without preparation, without food, without breakfast, possibly without dinner. Without pencils and very high and emotional, sometimes an undiagnosed challenge.

“We have been placing these children who are already struggling with physical needs, low self-esteem, and dysregulated nervous systems, and placing them in a school system that does not meet or serve their needs. That’s when we see behavior lash out, teachers being forced to physically restrain, leadership teams having to deal with the consequences.

“They attack other children, lash out at teachers, lash out at equipment, and destroy or break things in the classroom or on the playground.”

The focus on well-being should simultaneously support students and teachers, Ashlee says.

“Targeting children’s well-being with emotional regulation tools, more nutritious foods, how to deal with stress and social media management will make a difference in their behavior and engagement and will therefore have a positive impact on teachers “.

Likewise, supporting teachers with their physical and mental well-being has positive effects for the children they teach, leading Ashlee and a team of Prekure-trained health coaches who work in schools, with teachers or directly with families, to support behavior change for healthier outcomes. .

“Coaching gives you tools to help you achieve your goals through accountability, information and skills, and students respond very well to that.”

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FLAX also works with teachers in quarterly wellness workshops or in one-on-one counseling with school principals.

“Children are on a path that leads nowhere and we have the opportunity to turn them around now, to change their future protection, but schools cannot do it without funds and without people.

“Last year we had an incident where a child pulled a knife on another child. It takes weeks and months to resolve this issue, which then impacts the teacher, family, and school leadership.

“To a large extent it is due to lack of funding; we must remember that no one prospers without their well-being.”

Comment from the Ministry of Education

“Delivering mental health education is mandatory for all state and state integrated schools in Aotearoa, New Zealand, through the Health and Physical Education Learning Area of ​​the New Zealand Curriculum and the Hauora Learning Area of ​​Te Marautanga o Aotearoa,” says Ministry of Education hautū (leader) operations and integration, Sean Teddy.

“In 2022, we launch Mental Health Education, Years 1-13: A Guide for Teachers, Leaders, and School Boardswhich encourages schools to take a holistic approach, meaning that, in addition to quality teaching and learning, there are supportive school policies and strong relationships with the school community to respond to local needs.

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“We also launched Te Oranga Mauri – Te Hā o Hinepūtehue: He Puna Oranga Mauri mā ngā Mokopuna, a resource that affirms the existing successful practice in kura, offering a new way to align with regenerative ancestral practice by increasing awareness of your own mauri , the mauri of others and their impacts.

“He Ata and Oho The resource collection is a resource comprising cards and activities designed to teach social and emotional skills.

“Awhi Mai Awhi Atu | Counseling in schools was introduced to increase the provision of support for the wellbeing and mental health of students, their families and education staff, to support the re-entry of students into schools and to provide additional learning support services for those they need them.

“Awhi Mai Awhi Atu is a response to emerging concerns around wellbeing and mental health.

“By leveraging a range of evidence-based skills, approaches and therapeutic interventions to support the well-being of ākonga in the context of their whānau, kura and community, counseling professionals can play a key role in supporting ākonga hauora and their well-being. .

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“The program began in September 2021 and is delivered in primary schools, middle schools and some selected small secondary schools in eight regions: Te Tai Tokerau, Auckland, Waikato, Hawkes Bay/Tairawhiti, Taranaki/Manawatū/Whanganui, Wellington and Canterbury.

“Schools receiving this service work with their local providers and local ministry to shape support that best fits their school environment, culture, students and family.

“In each of the eight regions that receive this service, we have selected schools based on the variety of needs of their communities. At the beginning of the 2024 school year, 243 schools receive this service from 42 local community providers.

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“The Mana Ake programme, funded by Te Whatu Ora and supported by the Ministry of Education, provides mental health and wellbeing support to primary and middle school aged children in selected districts.

“Mana Ake services are currently available in Canterbury and Kaikōura and are being introduced in five new former District Health Board areas: Northland [Te Tai Tokerau]Counties Manukau, Lakes, Bay of Plenty and West Coast.

“Mana Ake services encompass a wide range of different supports and interventions.

“The types of supports and interventions provided to children include whole-school and classroom wellbeing sessions, smaller group therapeutic sessions and individualized counselling.

“Other interventions include sessions with whānau and parents, parent information and/or drop-in sessions, and development sessions for teachers and other school staff.

“Help is also available from our learning support professionals, who can work with a range of needs, including mental health and wellbeing, to support school and ākonga, whānau communities.

“This support includes a focus on the strengths and needs of school communities to help improve learning and well-being for all.

“Schools and boards of directors are responsible for the well-being of staff. The ministry also supports through the following set of wellness resources available to help schools and boards support their staff.”

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