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Today’s article is a little different to our usual approach of sharing practical emotional wellbeing tips.

As this week marks another World Suicide Prevention Day and R U OK Day, the state of mental health in our nation continues to worsen, and we believe it’s time for the topic to move towards TRUE prevention.

The fact is that Australian communities are really struggling and the situation is getting worse. Every day, 8 more families in Australia are devastated by suicide, and School communities are struggling to cope, reaching a crisis point when it comes to mental illness and violence, and latest research suggests that teachers are more depressed than the average Australian, and sadly we are hearing of some teachers who are ‘turning to the bottle’ to cope.

In 2015, the Australian Government response to the Contributing Lives, Thriving Communities – Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services, committed to a 50% reduction in suicide rates within 10 years. It is now 4 years down the track and the latest ABS stats show that self-harm is the leading cause of death among children aged 5-17, and child suicide fatalities are rising, with 98 children taking their own lives in 2017, a 10% increase on 2016 and higher than the previous four years.

We connected recently with one of the mums who together with a group of devastated parents collectively created An Open Letter to Parliament, pleading that something more should have been done to prevent the deaths of 25 teenagers from 2016 to 2019, some as young as 13.

The 2015 Govt report concluded there was an ‘imbalanced focus on the wrong end of the system. The current focus is on acute and crisis reactive services rather than on prevention and early intervention which can yield significant gains and reduce the need for more complex and costly interventions’.

Given all this, it is clear that whatever strategies have been implemented since 2015 are NOT working.

Under immense pressure from the Australian population clearly concerned about the state of mental health (or lack of it), the new Scott Morrison Govt has now committed to ‘delivering the world’s best mental health system – stigma-free and focused on prevention starting with children under 12’, confirming their zero suicide goal - a goal we would all like to see achieved.

The only question is, how will they DO THIS? What are they going to do that’s different to anything they’ve done before?

With the latest nationwide Australia/Yougov survey revealing that more than half of Australian adults know someone who has died by suicide and ‘What’s even more concerning is that by the time our young people turn 25 — they’ve got a 50 per cent chance of knowing someone who has taken their own life,' as quoted National Suicide Prevention CEO, Neives Murray.

So, where do we move to in order to deliver true prevention?

We agree with Ms Murray when she says, ‘it’s not just about mental ill health’. ‘Preventative programs need to be broadened beyond mental health’.

Mental illness is the problem, education is the solution.

And Primary Schools and Early Learning Services are where children are learning.

Over the last 5 years at PLS, we have developed, trialled and launched a set of evidence-based, curriculum-mapped early prevention emotional wellbeing programs, starting from Preschool and extending through to Year 6, that supports the emotional wellbeing of children, educators and families, without adding any more work for teachers.

Our program supports the national Be You Government funded initiative, and Primary School Principals are telling us how their Schools are benefiting through a ‘consistent communication and language used across all our classes to help students explain their emotional needs and how they can be supported.’ And in Early Childhood, the program is teaching vital self-regulation skills.

Our vision is for all children to learn these essential life-saving skills, when their brains are developing, so they don’t have to ‘unlearn’ and then ‘relearn’ skills later. What if some of our children could be prevented from developing mental illness in the first place? Maybe more sons and daughters can be saved, not to mention the billions of dollars that mental illness costs our economy.

We are on a mission to get the support of State and National Government in both the mental health and education sectors, and we propose that the Positive Living Skills initiative be considered as part of Mr Hunt’s 2030 mental health vision and Children’s Mental Health Strategy.

How can I help…… we hear you ask?

Please share this article, and if you are in the Primary School or Early Learning space and you would like to learn more about our work and how it is supporting Preschools and Primary Schools around Australia, please join us for our next ‘live’ and free Information session webinar booked for Wednesday September 18th.

Thank you for reading this message.

Until next time,

The PLS Team

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