Youth Aware of Mental Health (YAM), an evidence-based mental health program for Year 9 students has now been rolled out to thousands of high school students across the Illawarra Shoalhaven, with 25 public, independent and Catholic high schools delivering the program.
YAM aims to equip young people with the skills needed to build positive mental health and resilience as well as prevent suicide. The program focuses specifically on Year 9 students because mental health issues, self-harm and suicidality tend to first arise in this age group.
"We were interested in bringing the program into Edmund Rice College because it offered a proactive approach to raising awareness of mental health in a collaborative way. Given the rising tide of anxiety amongst young people, the opportunity to be involved in such a program in our school was an opportunity that we could not let pass us by," said Peter McGovern, Principal at Edmund Rice College.
"Both the staff and students have been very enthusiastic about YAM. The students have found the program to be very student-centred, hands on and a practical way to learn what can sometimes be a difficult topic of discussion," he added.
Through role-play and discussions in a classroom setting, the program teaches students how to resolve dilemmas commonly experienced by young people – including mental health issues, bullying and suicidality.
"YAM was a great program that allowed us to rethink how we treat others that may be having mental health issues. Because of this program, I believe I am now able to better listen to my friends that need help and devise ways that I can help my friends get better quickly," said one of the students at Edmund Rice College.
As part of the YAM rollout, suicide prevention training is also being promoted to school teaching staff, school counsellors and parents.
"We all have a role to play in suicide prevention. It could be as simple as signing up to do the Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR) training, a one-hour online course for just $10, which will help you recognise warning signs for suicide," said Dr Alex Hains, Regional Manager of the Illawarra Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative.
YAM and QPR are currently being rolled out as part of the LifeSpan project being undertaken by the Illawarra Shoalhaven Suicide Prevention Collaborative, in conjunction with the Black Dog Institute, to tackle the region’s high rates of suicide.
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