Source: Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA)
Lynfield College teacher Kat Wells talks about the mental health resource she helped develop that is now being provided to New Zealand schools.
Feature image: Mental Health Education and Hauora authors Kat Wells and Katie Fitzpatrick
The last time PPTA News spoke with Lynfield College teacher Kat Wells, she was celebrating the launch of Mental Health Education and Hauora: Teaching interpersonal skills, resilience, and wellbeing – a mental health teaching resource for year 7-13 students.
With the aid of a Beeby Fellowship grant, she teamed up with Auckland University researcher Katie Fitzpatrick to give school mental health resources, that hadn’t been updated since 1994, a much-needed upgrade.
Now the Ministry of Education has gotten on board with the project and hard copies of the book are being delivered to all schools with year 7 students and up, along with two ideas for teaching units. Teachers can also download it, along with supporting resources as a free PDF.
The go-to resource
Since Mental Health Education and Hauora was published in 2017 by New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) Press copies have been flying off the shelves. Kat is excited by how well it has been received and pleased to have Ministry of Education support.
“All schools with year 7 or above students will be able to access it now. It feels great to be able to create what teachers like me have been asking for,” she said.
At the book’s launch Kat said the aim was for it to become the “go-to resource” for teachers wanting to teach about mental health, resilience, interpersonal skills and wellbeing. Clearly it has achieved that, with positive feedback from both teachers and students.
“It’s nice to have a big resource that teachers can dip in and out of and design their own programmes. The feedback I’ve received is that students really valued and enjoyed exploring these concepts,” she said.
Schools have an important role to play
Current research tells us young people in New Zealand are experiencing unprecedented levels of loneliness and stress, Kat says.
“Schools can’t solve the mental health crisis alone, but they do have an important role to play by checking in with students and supporting then through difficult times.
“As teachers we can empower and equip our young people with the skills and knowledge to navigate through challenges, changes and relationships. We know that young people who are happy and healthy and feel safe and confident in themselves learn better. This book can support teachers and schools with this work,” she said.
Covid-19 and mental health
Anxiety around the Covid-19 pandemic had definitely driven a demand for mental health resources, but lockdowns had meant less face-to-face time to deliver it, Kat said.
“From a curriculum point of view, it has been hard because we haven’t had as much face-to-face time this year and we have had to focus on other things. Mental health resources work best in a face-to-face environment.”
Both Kat and Katie would like to see a larger focus on mental health and health education in general in the curriculum.
“We have to prioritise this stuff. A whole school approach to mental health is good, but there needs to be specific space in the curriculum,” she said.
You can download a free copy of Mental Health Education and Hauora and view a video of Kat talking about the resource from the New Zealand Health Association website.
Mental Health Education and Hauora: Teaching interpersonal skills, resilience and wellbeing – free download