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Narembeen DHS – Mental Health Week Awards Finalist

Posted 2 Nov 2021

Big congratulations to Narembeen DHS which has been shortlisted as a finalist in this year’s Mental Health Awards (Mentally Healthy Education Award category).

Situated in the Wheatbelt 280 kilometres from Perth, Narembeen DHS has 131 students. As for so many country-based schools, there’s limited ready access to services, so when the school decided to make men  tal health a focus in its 2020 – 2021 Business Plan, it knew it needed to do the work itself. A Mental Health Focus Group of five teachers met fortnightly to develop a whole of school mental health plan, starting with professional mental health training for staff including Youth Mental First Aid, Gatekeeper, Rural Minds, SDERA Drugs and Alcohol, Safe Talk, Positive School’s, Smiling Mind and Protective Behaviours.

Teachers were reminded of the importance of looking after their own mental health and encouraged to schedule time for self-care and share successful strategies with their colleagues.

Four young students practise skipping ropes beside an 'Act Belong Commit' sign

Initiatives for students ranged from student affirmations framed on toilet doors, to a special wellness room (christened the ‘The Happiness Hub’ by students). It’s a place where students can meet, chat with a teacher trained in motivational interviewing, or relax with the help of music, yoga mats, reading materials, colouring in activities and comfy chairs. During Health lessons the school’s health teachers taught students how to use the room effectively.

Students' wellness room 'The Happiness Hub'.

As well as being an Act Belong Commit partner, the school has drawn on evidence-based mental health resources such as SDERA and Aussie Optimism, to develop assertiveness, resilience and wellbeing in students and to reduce the stigma attached to mental illnesses. Special events included a ‘Blue Day’ during mental health week and ‘Stand Tall Together’ – a full day for year 7-11 students dedicated to building resilience, self-belief and hope during the uncertainties of 2020.

Through its tireless work the school has seen its positive culture reinforced, with older students becoming role models for younger students. A survey of secondary students confirmed that students are now more aware of the support services available and recognise that their school is working to raise awareness about mental health. One hundred percent of primary students said their teachers looked out for them and checked in with them when they are feeling sad or upset.

Narembeen is one of three finalists for the Mentally Healthy Education Award so we’ll have our fingers crossed for them at the award ceremony on 25 November!