New evidence shines light on mental health of children and young people

Five new Evidence Checks managed by the Sax Institute are informing Beyond Blue’s ‘Be You’ – an online mental health initiative for schools and early learning services.

Commissioned by Beyond Blue, the reviews examine the latest mental health evidence and have found new insights into raising mentally healthy kids – from strategies that help build resilience from an early age, to equipping educators with greater mental health skills and resources.

These findings will support the future development of the Be You initiative, which started in 2018 and provides teachers and early learning professionals with educational tools to help kids achieve their best possible mental health. Currently there are over 6,000 primary and secondary schools, and 2,000 early learning services registered with the program.

Be You is Australia’s first national mental health initiative for schools.

The five Evidence Checks build on the existing Be You initiatives and explore specific questions about what it takes to help children and young people through tough times. For instance, how do we create mentally healthy communities and teach resilience? How can families help? And what are the most effective ways to respond to critical incidents, such as bushfires or the death of a student?

Some of the strategies researchers identified for encouraging positive mental health include: monitoring children’s mental health to help those at risk; adding cognitive behavioural programs to the curriculum; and teaching children how to understand and manage their emotions.

Be You Product Lead, Madeleine Bowden, says the evidence has helped reinforce many of the messages in Be You. “It’s painted a really clear picture of what a mentally healthy learning community should look like and affirmed the ways in which educators, schools and early learning services can achieve that in line with the research.”

The reviews come at a critical time for youth mental health, with the latest report from Mission Australia and the Black Dog Institute revealing that almost one in four young people are now struggling with a mental illness.

Madeleine Bowden says prevention and early intervention will make the biggest difference to future generations, and Be You is evolving along with the research.

“These reviews are being used to inform more content going forward. For example, the review that looked at how schools and services might respond to a critical incident found there are a number of strategies to help learning communities recover.” These range from well-practised plans and strong collaboration, to resuming school routines as soon as possible.

As Be You begins its second year working with educators, this new suite of evidence will provide a strong base for supporting the future mental health of Australian children and young people.

Read the five Evidence Checks here:

Mentally Healthy Communities

Learning Resilience

Family Partnerships

Early Support

Responding Together

A Sax Institute Evidence Check conducts a rapid review of existing research and evidence that is tailored to a policy agency’s individual needs. To find out more, visit the Sax Institute’s Evidence Check Library.