Cath Shaw, Founder
A point came in my life when I was no longer experiencing joy in anything. I would wake every day feeling sick in the stomach, anxious and fearful of what terrible thing was going to happen that day or the next day. My life felt hopeless and I just wanted to escape.
My turning point came one day when an event occurred within my close circle and I realised just how much my situation was impacting on my family and those around me. For the first time in a long time a fierce determination ignited inside of me to find a way to make a change, and that determination remains today.
I started researching the mind and how it works and I discovered that there were actual practical and positive tools and techniques that I could apply in my life daily so I could move forward.
My focus turned to children and how skills and concepts must be taught to young children, starting from early childhood, so they can learn some of these skills before they get to High School and begin to navigate adolescence. I began researching how Social and Emotional Learning was being taught and learned and started talking to teachers and families and I knew that this issue needed to be considered as a whole of community approach. I began working with a talented group of professionals and the esteemed Dr. Terry Orlick to develop the Positive Living Skills Initiative to support Early Childhood services and Primary Schools to lead their communities toward a culture of mental wellbeing. My vision is to see these skills embedded in Australian communities.
Cath Shaw, Founder
‘On what we do with children, rests the destiny of our world.’ Dr. Terry Orlick
Our communities are in trouble
According to current statistics published by Beyond Blue, one in 5 Australians experiences a mental health condition in a given year and in Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death for males and females aged between 15 and 44. In a typical year, about 3,000 people in Australia die by suicide. That's an average of 8 people every day.
Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people between the ages of 15-24 years, and evidence suggests that 3 in 4 adult mental health conditions emerge by age 24, and half by age 14.
One in seven (14%) of young people aged 4 to 17 years experiences a mental health condition in any given year, so if an average class in Australia has 30 students, then several of those children could be struggling.
Add to this the problems of violence and bullying in our communities and in our Schools, and while all parents and carers want the best for their families, it's no surprise that families are struggling to find answers for how to support their children and themselves.
Educators are experiencing more stress and less job satisfaction than ever before and School and Early Learning leaders want engaged teams rather than high attrition rates which impacts all stakeholders, including families.
At Positive Living Skills, we believe a whole of community preventative initiative is needed and we have developed all our programs resources and services to meet this goal.
We have a different view of when ‘prevention’ begins when it comes to mental wellbeing. Our belief is that prevention MUST begin with children where from as young as 3 years of age children learn habitual skills for wellbeing BEFORE there are signs of mental challenges, and because school is the universal location where children learn, this is the platform to begin emotional intelligence education.
Our approach is a 'whole of community' approach supporting educators, children and families.
The application of the Positive Living Skills program concepts are based on the principles or theories of:
(1) Priming, an implicit memory effect where exposure to one stimulus influences a response to another stimulus. Concepts of the program support each other, and each level of the program acts as a primer for the following lessons at later stages
(2) Distributed Practice, a learning strategy where practice is broken up into a number of short sessions spread over a longer period of time; and
(3) Building Procedural memory to enhance learning. By repeating an activity over and over again eventually all of the relevant neural systems work together to automatically produce the activity;
Acknowledging all the valuable organisations and frameworks which support mental wellbeing, it appears from our research that our approach to prevention and building ongoing wellbeing and resilience is innovative.
The purpose of the Positive Living Skills Initiative is to help children learn a range of preventative and practical mental wellbeing skills and strategies so they can become adults who live as participating and contributing members of thriving communities.
Young children are building neural pathways every day, as they learn everything from washing their hands to reading and writing. The Positive Living Skills programs are based on a range of practical and universal tools and proven concepts, which when applied with the principles of of procedural learning, distributed practice and priming, are designed so that young people can build procedural memories of positive and practical ways to look after their mental health, and maximise their ability to learn and achieve, and ultimately reach their potential.
The teacher-led Positive Living Skills programs are made up of evidence based concepts, skills and activities that will help children build a lifelong skillset to self-direct their own thinking processes, emotions, actions and outcomes.
Our initiative also addressees the growing rates of stress and burn out currently being experienced by educators, and also assists families to build their levels of mental wellbeing.
Ultimately, our purpose is to positively and significantly impact the alarming and growing statistics of anxiety, depression and suicide that our societies are experiencing today.