Focus on Education

At a time when many adolescents across Queensland are enjoying school holidays, it’s worth remembering that there are no holidays from mental illness. And for a number of young people and their families/carers affected by severe and complex mental health issues, there are, in essence, no schools or education services either.

When the idea of leaving home induces vomiting, then attendance at a local school – often the site of past traumas and definitely a place of multiple sources of stress – is impossible. …
When speaking online to participate in Distance Education is so overwhelming  that considering it triggers extreme anxiety, …
what is left to allow you to be part of your peer group, a member of society; discovering ways to learn and interact and develop towards a productive adult life??


People with direct experience with severe and complex youth mental health issues know that the right healthcare is essential. But they’re also aware that even the understanding and inclusive treatment from trusted clinicians is often not enough to bring a stable foundation to lives that have been impacted in EVERY respect.

The Queensland Department of Education School that was part of the Barrett Adolescent Centre at Wacol was a real-life illustration of the vital role that supportive specialised education, training and rehabilitation plays in enabling young people to develop the skills and abilities that will be the basis of a future of social interaction, personal achievement, acquisition of lifeskills and of the fundamentals of learning that can lead to vocational/academic pursuits. And more. Through a carefully planned education environment and program, young people who have been disengaged from education and from social/community activities for an extended period can discover their potential, interests and hope for the future. This is vital. Particularly when an unsuitable educational/social environment is likely to have already exacerbated many aspects of their challenging mental health conditions. This means that a comprehensively student-focussed approach – one that acknowledges their vulnerabilities and respects their worth – is the only way to facilitate a path back to a life of growth and accomplishment. And surely every young person deserves the opportunity to live that kind of life – especially considering the trauma they’ve already endured and the unfair hand they have been dealt in relation to their health.

So, it’s extremely positive that the Department of Education are partnering with the Health Department during the current stage of development of services for young people following the recommendations from the BAC Commission of Inquiry.

Consumers and carers continue to advocate for ALL the needs of the young people for whom services have been lacking for so long. So, with the help of Health Consumers Queensland, the consumer/carer representatives directly involved in the ongoing co-design of services have pressed for a strong focus on the education and rehabilitation component of the new facility to be built at Chermside. And, in addition, they continue to promote the importance of educational components that will complement other services with the continuum of care for young people with mental health issues e.g. Step Up/ Step Down programs, young people accessing AMYOS support in the community … etc. When mental health issues affect EVERY ASPECT OF YOUR LIFE, then EVERY ASPECT OF A YOUNG PERSON’S LIFE MUST BE STRUCTURED TO ENABLE POSITIVE DEVELOPMENTS (and not undermine effective healthcare or aggravate the ongoing struggle to find appropriate treatment). In the same way that the BAC Inquiry revealed a gap in awareness in health service providers in relation to the existence and needs of the group of young people and their families who endure the complexity and severity at the extreme end of the mental health spectrum, it’s been interesting to note that those handling education service provision can, despite good intentions, have been uninformed about this cohort and what they require. With those affected forced to focus on survival from day-to-day (or even minute-to-minute) and only a small number of educators with expertise and experience in this area, we’re looking for ways to spread the word about the importance of specialised education in the multidisciplinary approach to supporting those affected by severe and complex youth mental health issues. So, with that in mind, this post is to provide links to information at severeyouthmentalhealth.org that might help to achieve that

 

The introductory Education & Training page

(shortlink: https://wp.me/P7lCk2-qe)
outlines a couple of major reasons that expert education and rehabilitation will always be an essential component in the range of services required by this cohort.

 

The Inpatient School: Adolescent Extended Treatment Facility

(shortlink: https://wp.me/P7lCk2-qw)
explains how the school within a residential youth mental health facility with a multidisciplinary approach needs to operate to play the educational role that is key in affecting positive change for young people for whom the severity and complexity of their mental health issues has meant that no other treatment or education options have been effective.

 

The Support School: Community-based Young People

(shortlink: https://wp.me/P7lCk2-qy)
is likely to be a revelation to many as the students who require this service had not been acknowledged as a specific group different to those within the severe and complex cohort who require extended inpatient treatment until recently. However, thanks to the support of the Queensland Education Department for the Barrett School (which has continued operation since closure of the Barrett Adolescent Centre in January 2014), young people still able to engage with community-based mental health services have been referred to the relocated Barrett School at Tennyson because there has been no EDUCATION service to meet their needs. Their needs have parallels with the ‘extended inpatient cohort’ but there are clear and distinct differences in the approach and management of an education program and environment to meet the specific needs of this community-based group.

 

The Future of Education in Severe Youth Mental Health

(shortlink: https://wp.me/P7lCk2-r7)
describes some possible options for continuing to address the needs of young Queenslanders whose mental health issues compromise every aspect of their lives – and that of their families/carers – in an era when no one can deny that mental illness needs to be the Number One Priority in addressing the needs of young people.

 

We hope that you’ll share some of the information on these pages wherever you can. And we’ll continue to update you about progress in the vital area of EDUCATION for those affected by SEVERE AND COMPLEX YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES.
Because, essentially, education is not simply a priority for our most vulnerable young people, it should be a priority for service providers (government, NGOs and private) and, of course for all of us seeking to better understand the communities we live in and needs of our family members, friends and neighbours.

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