Response Ability is an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Health. It aims to promote the social and emotional wellbeing, or mental health, of children and young people.
The project is implemented by Hunter Institute of Mental Health in partnership with tertiary educators throughout Australia.
What Do We Do?
The Response Ability team supports the pre-service training of school teachers and early childhood educators, regarding mental health issues in children and young people. We do this through:
- Providing free, evidence-based multi-media teaching resources to Australian tertiary institutions.
- Providing additional information through conference presentations, on our website, and by other means.
- Providing professional support to tertiary educators to help them integrate mental health into their program.
Why Promote Mental Health in Children and Young People?
Mental health problems and disorders contribute significantly to the range of health issues seen in Australia today and to the costs of treatment and management, as well as the personal burden of ill health on individuals and their families. Working with children and young people is one potentially cost-effective way to address the impact of mental health difficulties in our community, both today and into the future.
Many mental health problems and disorders have their onset in childhood or adolescence, or are related to important risk and protective factors that have an impact in childhood or adolescence. To improve mental health outcomes for Australians, we need to reduce the incidence or impact of risk factors, build up people's protective factors and help children and adolescents to access support early if difficulties do arise.
Why Teachers and Early Childhood Staff?
Children and young people develop in the contexts of their families, other caregivers, schools and communities. Early childhood care and education staff, and school teachers, play an important role in the lives of many Australian children and young people.
There are now many programs used in early childhood and school settings that are designed to support positive social and emotional development, resilience, and the provision of early intervention and support services. Some such programs have been associated not only with better mental health, but with improved behaviour and academic achievement.
This is an international movement in which new programs and research are emerging constantly. People who are training to work in schools and early childhood settings need to know about the key principles and practices they can adopt to support positive health and learning outcomes.
Teachers and early childhood educators can help all children and young people by creating supportive learning environments and by promoting positive social and emotional development and competence. Educators also have a role in identifying those who need further support and helping them to access other services.