The Australian Psychological Society (APS) is calling on the Victorian Government to support and protect the mental health of young people as they finish the school year by securing students’ access to school psychologists.
President Tamara Cavenett said the APS wanted to see the government take strong action to support the mental health of young people as they re-adjust to on-site learning.
“The pandemic and strict lockdown measures in Victoria this year have exacerbated the usual mental health issues our children and young people experience, and the nation’s school psychologists and counsellors have done an amazing job helping young Australians adjust to the challenge.
“Now, the Victorian Government has an opportunity to set the standard for the nation in supporting this generation and preventing them from being affected long-term by the challenges of 2020.
“This pandemic has the ability to impact children’s capacity to attend to, remember, and focus on their learning, with an anticipated educational impact from the pandemic on a scale never before seen in in our lifetime.
“We do not want to see students suffering from anxiety, depression, adjustment issues or social anxiety.
“It is essential that Victorian children in particular have appropriate ‘in school’ access to skilled psychologists, who together with their dedicated teachers, can help them to overcome these challenges and barriers.
“The government has recently stated it will prioritise students’ mental health and wellbeing by reconnecting them with their peers and getting them back into the school routine.
“By placing a qualified psychologist in each Victorian school, the government can genuinely act on this intention and ensure no child is left behind after this terrible year,” she said.
Ms Cavenett said school was the ideal environment to help set children and young people up for a mentally healthy future. Mental resilience and coping skills learned as an early life skill can assist a young person all through their life span
“Prior to the pandemic, research showed that fifty per cent of lifelong mental health issues start before the age of 14 years.
“We don’t yet know the long term effects of the lockdowns on our kids’ mental health, but we do know that school is the appropriate setting to catch early signs, provide early intervention, and make sure we are giving extra support to those students who need help to re-adjust, re-socialise and begin to thrive again.
“Additionally, psychologists are an important source of support for teachers and principals, particularly during challenging times such as these,” she said.