Recognition for the Barrett School … a Success, an Asset, a Lifesaver

The Barrett School at Tennyson in Brisbane is a Support School specifically for young people with severe and complex mental health issues.

It is different from hospital schools – even from the education programs for inpatients and Day Program patients at Jacaranda Place (opened this year in response to recommendations from the Barrett Adolescent Centre closure Commission of Inquiry). The Barrett Adolescent Special School is not a school with direct connections to a treatment program or with healthcare professionals onsite. The staff are educators. And the students are young people accessing healthcare in their own communities with their own clinicians and allied health support.

BUT what has been missing from the lives of the young people who find themselves at the Barrett School are the opportunities to learn and develop and see a future with options. The things that come with an education at a place where students are truly understood and respected and empowered.

Each young person at Barrett along with their family/carers will have tried everything before discovering the School. But when mental health issues are so severe that a young person cannot engage with a modified program at a regular school or with a flexi-school (including Qld Pathways Colleges) or Distance Education, they are left isolated. At one of the most important stages of life … when social and emotional development are significant and new experiences facilitate cognitive growth as well as the acquisition of skills and knowledge.

A network of young people and carers facilitated by Health Consumers Queensland has recently put out two short videos describing what is needed by those young people dealing with severe and complex mental health issues where education is concerned. (Pt 1 is here and Pt 2 here.)

And severeyouthmentalhealth.org has released our own video with explanations on the approach required and the needs and circumstances that are its basisWe’ve outlined the model of a Support School like Barrett as well as describing the Tennyson-based School’s particular approach. And we’ve celebrated the Barrett School’s outcomes and value in our ‘Focus on Education’ month.

But the Barrett Adolescent Special School has remained low profile – a dedicated team working to support each student in the way that meets individual needs, interests and aspirations.

Until now.

Yesterday, ABC Radio’s Rebecca Levingston used her role as host of the “Mornings” program to highlight the importance of the Barrett School by interviewing two parents whose stories are ones with familiar tones to the School’s educators. The two families are at different stages of their journeys but share the same deep relief and gratitude that they found a school that finally helped their young people reconnect with education.
You can listen to the program here (with the extensive coverage of The Barrett School between 1:45:50 and 2:05:22) 
In addition, Rebecca has extended her reporting by dedicating her column at inqld.com.au to the achievements of the Barrett Adolescent Special School – allowing her to expand on the interviews that clearly resonated not just for the journalist herself but for her many listeners.
You can read that column – “The Brisbane school where just getting out of the car can be the biggest step” – here.

This small but life-changing service is one based on expert knowledge and the skills of professionals adept in the education of a group of young people whose numbers are sadly growing.

It is hoped that this unique resource will not remain unique for longer. Such an asset should be available to young people far beyond Brisbane.

So please share this post and/or the links contained in it as widely as you can.
And click here to contact the Minister for Education to urge that she commit to establishing programs using this specialised education model to be rolled out across Queensland.

(AND  there is no reason why a innovative government cannot utilise – or even monetise to the advantage of the Queensland taxpayer – what a team of dedicated Brisbane educators have developed to facilitate the use of such a model beyond the state by other service providers.)

Huge congratulations to the Barrett School – its staff and its students. You are all key players in a great success story.

 

 

What LEARNING Means

We all know that we continue to learn through our lives. That we start learning the day we’re born and continue until Apple has no more devices to invent. So learning isn’t simply about the information that we gain from academic study. It isn’t simply about information at all.

Learning is what we need to do so we can live. Not just to make a living but so that we can do the essential things – move, interact, consume …. so that we can exist effectively and safely within a community of other people. So that we have a sense of who we are and what we want and need and how we might acquire those things.

It’s obvious that some of our most essential learning happens in our very early years. But some of the most important learning for the rest of our lives happens when we develop the understanding that our brains and bodies have evolved to acquire during our adolescence and young adulthood. In formal education – like a classroom. And everywhere else.

Engaging with others and taking on more independence as we physically develop is a pivotal stage of life. So what happens (or doesn’t happen) as we traverse that tightrope from child- to adulthood lays the foundation for the decades to come.

So if we don’t have the opportunities to observe others, test and develop our skills and comprehend the intricacies of autonomous living and functional relationships during that period, that means we don’t progress. We don’t become someone capable of living a productive and safe adult life. We might pass 16 years on the earth, … 17 and then 18 … but if we’ve been stuck somewhere away from classrooms and shopping centres and sporting activities and entertainment venues – different people and places and circumstances  …  then we might be stuck at the social, personal and cognitive development of a 14 year old. Or younger.

Many forces linked to experiencing severe mental health issues can drive a young person to isolate from the world. Despite trying all they can to be part of it. Fear, anxiety, trauma, confusion, hopelessness  … any or all of these things can lead a young person to cut themselves off. Confine themselves – sometimes to just a couple of rooms. For a very long time.

And so they miss out on the learning that happens with their peers, with their community and in environments created by education professionals.

So ONLY an education program that recognises this situation and creates experiences that acknowledge an individual’s level of development and specific needs can support young people who’ve experienced this social isolation to making gradual progress. 

It is not enough to recognise that a young person has missed out on the acquisition of specific areas of knowledge. Because their capacity to then acquire that if presented can never be assumed. A young person must be able to recognise and regulate their emotions, establish and build positive relationships and have the tools to make responsible decisions and handle challenging situations constructively. This is why the Australian curriculum to Year 10 is not just the Maths, Science, English … that are the focus of the senior secondary years. The General Capabilities dimension that includes Personal and Social Capability can be an area that teachers of young people with severe mental health issues may need to implement even when a student is at a senior secondary age.

Personal & Social Capability icon (Australian Curriculum)

Personal and social capability supports students in becoming creative and confident individuals who, as stated in the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA 2008), ‘have a sense of self-worth, self-awareness and personal identity that enables them to manage their emotional, mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing’, with a sense of hope and ‘optimism about their lives and the future’. On a social level, it helps students to ‘form and maintain healthy relationships’ and prepares them ‘for their potential life roles as family, community and workforce members’ (MCEETYA, p. 9).

Students with well-developed social and emotional skills find it easier to manage themselves, relate to others, develop resilience and a sense of self-worth, resolve conflict, engage in teamwork and feel positive about themselves and the world around them. The development of personal and social capability is a foundation for learning and for citizenship.

“The development of personal and social capability is a foundation for learning and for citizenship.”

It’s THAT important.

So
when we acknowledge that young people with severe and complex mental health issues can have missed out on the experiences that facilitate this development, we start to recognise the importance of education programs that see a student as an individual. Not an age. Not a category. Not a disability or a diagnosis. But a unique person with specific needs. AND POTENTIAL.

Good teachers will plan and adapt programs and experiences accordingly.

Great teachers will do that with respect and empathy.

Thank you to all the great teachers who have brought community to a world of isolation. And who have nurtured self-esteem and fostered hope for a brighter future.

Young people with severe and complex mental health issues DESERVE GREAT TEACHERS.

Nothing less.


To read our previous October posts focused on education, go to:

Education for Young People with Severe Mental Health Issues (5 Oct)

And the GOOD NEWS is … (9 Oct)

Not Patients But Students (15 Oct)

“Who We Are” and “What We Need” (22 Oct)

Medical Director, Statewide Extended Treatment campus advertised

It’s likely to be of particular interest to many for whom child and youth mental health issues are important that Children’s Health Queensland (CHQ) is now advertising a position of some significance.

CHQ is the state government Hospital and Health Service under which the facility to be constructed at Chermside following the recommendations of the Barrett Adolescent Centre Commission of Inquiry will operate as one of the many vital options that young Queenslanders can access through the  Child and Youth Mental Health Service (CYMHS).

The position of a Medical Director of a campus focussing on Statewide Extended Treatment is clearly a key role in shaping how the clinical elements of the Model of Service and Model of Care will be delivered and the right kind of leadership and approach will be influential in achieving the best outcomes for the patients and families who access the services offered at that campus. So there are many people hoping for interest from a substantial selection of high calibre candidates with an appropriate management style and collaboration skills as well as excellent clinical qualifications and experience.

With that in mind, this post is to encourage the widespread proliferation of the existence of this vacancy. Because the more people that are aware of this opportunity, the better the chance there is of the appointment of the best Medical Director possible.

The person who fills this position will be pivotal in establishing an environment and tone across a service where those elements can have far-reaching effects – not only on those for whom the right support for severe mental health issues can change the direction of their lives but for the team of professionals who will work collaboratively under the leadership of the Medical Director. And although the title accurately indicates the clinical emphasis of the Director, the campus team for such a service would include staff in important non-medical positions (e.g Education, Administration etc.) whose  input and mutual engagement with those with clinical expertise must be as valued and intrinsically linked to the goals and values of the facility as any other professional contributor. The right Medical Director will be able to unite all those who stay, work at or visit the campus  to create the kind of healing community that provides the outcomes deserved by those affected by the mental health issues the campus aims to address. And his/her leadership and management style will engender a workplace where  dedicated professionals with a range of skills and experience will seek to be able to make a contribution when they know that will be valued, stimulating and productive.

So there can be no doubt that this is a role of significant opportunity and influence in an area where professional and interpersonal attributes beyond those solely medical will be fundamental.

The link to the advertisement for this role is:

https://www.seek.com.au/job/37690108?type=standard

or you can click on the image below to take you there directly.

Please share this post and/or the link above as widely as you can.

Thank you.

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.

COMMUNITY INPUT REQUIRED re: Educational Needs of Young People with chronic/complex health conditions

Young people with chronic health or complex mental health conditions require more than simply healthcare. As they grow and develop – and hopefully receive the most effective treatment for their illness/es – their growth and development in all areas must be considered and supported, as is the case with all young people.

So, as the Health Department and Health Consumers Queensland facilitate the engagement of the wider community in the design and development of the new Adolescent Extended Treatment Facility for young people recovering from complex mental health conditions, Queensland’s Education Department is enthusiastic about embracing the input of those with lived experience in order to meet the educational needs of young people at the AETF AND through all stages of chronic illness and/or severe and complex mental health issues.

So, as part of the Department of Education’s commitment to developing and implementing a statewide continuum of educational delivery to support all students dealing with these kinds of health impacts, there will be a community forum where anyone can attend to put forward opinions, ideas and feedback around how to best support the educational needs of young people recovering from chronic health or complex mental health conditions.

Discussion will include issues relating to the new facility (to be located at The Prince Charles Hospital, Brisbane that is due to open in 2020) which will include residential facilities, day program treatment and therapy, and a school program. But young people move to and from different levels of healthcare service and, across Queensland, health issues and their impacts vary with each young person. So each student has specific needs in regard to accessing and gaining benefit from educational opportunities. So the Department of Education would like to ensure that all those needs are met. And only with the input of those who have needed and will need access to education across different circumstances can the full spectrum of types of education, training and rehabilitation services be planned for and provided.

So anyone who has an interest is invited to the:

Consultation Workshop

on

Monday 30 April, 9.15am–12.00pm

at

Conference Room, Autism Hub & Reading Centre (AHRC)
141 Merton Road (Cnr Park Road), Woolloongabba

(The AHRC is next to Park Road train station and Boggo Road bus station and there if free parking available onsite.)

If you click here or on any links in this post, you’ll be taken to the Eventbrite page where you can register to attend.

The program will be as follows:

9.15am–9.30am: Registration

9.30am–10.00am: Introduction presentation

10.00am–11.30am: Consumer workshop; Carer workshop

11.30am–12.00pm: Light lunch and refreshments

Reimbursement for attendance is provided.
Please advise of any dietary requirements.

Please share this on social media or with anyone you feel might be able to contribute in some way. The more that the people with firsthand knowledge can impart to those developing services, the more likely that Queensland’s young people will receive the invaluable education services that can make a significant difference to their lives.

Thank you.

CALLING ALL YOUNG PEOPLE WITH OPINIONS AND IDEAS!!

A lot of different people have been involved in the co-design process still underway for the new Adolescent Extended Treatment Facility to be built at Chermside in Brisbane. And recently the most important people so far have begun to have input – Education Queensland and Health Consumers Queensland were able to facilitate a workshop that included a number of YOUNG PEOPLE THEMSELVES, all of whom made incredibly valuable contributions that will shape many aspects of the new centre.

So now, the Department of Education would like to hear from more young people on issues like:

  • what classrooms and outdoor learning areas should look like
  • what activities the young people attending the centre should be able to participate in
  • how the centre can have as comfortable and homey environment as it possible
  • what skills and knowledge teachers at the centre should have

IN FACT, ANY IDEAS AT ALL!

So …

IF YOU’RE A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT / SOMEONE WHO WAS A HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT IN THE LAST 6 YEARS OR SO – OR YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO FITS THAT DESCRIPTION, please spread the word and encourage young people to

TAKE THE SURVEY

It’s quick, easy and online.

And if young people have had experience (personally or through someone else) with mental health issues, those insights would be especially interesting to learn.
But any young person who has ideas on what might be important in a health and education centre that’s going to have residents and day students attending where the focus is on healing and hope for the future can make a really useful contribution.

The survey is at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9WXM99Y
so please use the sharing buttons below to share this post and encourage young people to have their say.

The real experts on what works for young people are young people.
So as many insights as possible from those who know will ensure that the new centre has the best chance of being the place that everyone is hoping it will be.