Earlier in the year, as the South Australian election was building to a crescendo, the then Premier published an article about the youth being the future of our state. He was, of course, correct. However, the article was written around the pandemic and, arguably, it ignored the biggest health issue our youth face - the issue of their mental health.
The former Premier’s actions prompted a response from Westminster. While our missive was not replied to by the Premier, AISSA (our Association of Independent Schools in SA) did respond. A task force was established by this peak body and Westminster was invited to be involved. The aim of the task force is to investigate potential ways to assist schools and students in finding support for youth mental health.
Work on the task force has highlighted the importance of parental engagement in helping prevent mental health issues. Westminster’s Wellbeing team works very hard to create a program that engages our whole School community. Likewise, they strive to procure speakers who can help. Unfortunately, despite these efforts, it is hard to get parental engagement. Work schedules, diary conflicts, commuting time and other commitments make it understandably hard for parents to attend workshops and guest speaker presentations. Despite these challenges, I would urge all Westminster parents to make the most of every opportunity to be engaged in these worthwhile sessions.
Given it is estimated that 50% of lifetime mental health issues commence by age 14, and 75% by age 24, parental engagement in every wellbeing event is something that we should all see as vital. COVID-19 has made planning some events far more complex as guest speakers have had to cancel or reschedule. However, every effort continues to be made to offer key wellbeing learning opportunities to the whole community.
If we are an engaged and educated community around youth wellbeing, perhaps we can help avoid problems with greater awareness and early intervention. Please be alert to the many face-to-face or online opportunities offered and avail yourselves of them so that we can work together on youth wellbeing as a shared priority.