Mental Health

From Term 1 2017, Victorian government and Catholic schools will use the new Victorian Curriculum F-10. Curriculum related information is currently being reviewed and may be subject to change.

For more information on the curriculum, see:
The Victorian Curriculum F–10 - VCAA

Schools already have a range of strategies in place that promote healthy minds and positive mental health. 

This includes creating safe environments, teaching social and emotional learning and recognising the importance of families. 

In committing to promoting healthy minds in children and young people, your school community is also helping to foster satisfaction, success and engagement in all aspects of their students’ lives.

Mental health promotion

If someone asked, “what can you do to promote mental health?” What would you think? What are the actions that you would take?

Often, when people think about promoting mental health, they think about responding to an individual’s experience of mental illness. 

Promoting mental health is about improving everyone’s mental health and wellbeing by improving their social and the physical environment.

Schools and early childhood settings already promote mental health by providing access to education, a sense of belonging, and the development of social and emotional skills – these are all protective factors for children and young people’s wellbeing.  At the same time, poor attachment, peer rejection, and experiences of bullying and discrimination all contribute to poor mental health.

An early childhood setting or school that promotes mental health has strategies in place to sustain:

  • safe, inclusive and empowering environments
  • social and emotional learning
  • family, community and service partnerships
  • integrated promotion and planning
  • building capacity to promote mental health.

More information on the elements of mental health promotion in early childhood and schools can be found at:

Safe, inclusive and empowering environments

Environments that promote mental health are safe, inclusive and empowering

Mental health promoting environments are safe because they:

  • support a range of opportunities for learning and physical activity
  • foster safe, respectful and supportive relationships between children and young people, educators and families
  • have strategies to promote positive and responsible behaviour, and to prevent and respond to bullying, discrimination and harassment, including through the use of digital technologies.

Mental health promoting environments are inclusive because they:

  • value children and young people for who they are
  • support and promote the physical and mental wellbeing of staff

Mental health promoting environments are empowering because they:

  • create opportunities for children and young people’s  voices to be respected and to contribute to decisions that impact on their wellbeing, learning and environment.

For more information, see: 

Social and emotional learning

Social and emotional learning supports children and young people to develop skills to maintain positive relationships and to have resilience to social and emotional stressors.

These skills are:

  • self-awareness: recognise and manage emotions
  • social awareness: develop care and concern for others
  • responsible decision making: understanding and applying decision making skills
  • self-management: handle challenging situations effectively; take increasing responsibility for their own health and physical wellbeing
  • relationship skills: establish positive and respectful relationships; build trusting adult relationships; form attachment to a familiar and consistent educator/s.

For more information, see: 

Family, community and service partnerships

Schools and early childhood settings require support from families and the wider community to provide positive, stimulating environments for children’s intellectual and social development.

Family, community and service partnerships are developed by:

  • proactively building connections with families and communities
  • recognising the primary role of families in children and young people’s learning and development, mental health and wellbeing
  • supporting families to enhance their skills in developing  positive relationships and their children’s resilience
  • identifying children and young people who may be at risk of developing mental illness, engage their families and refer to appropriate early interventions
  • partnering with service providers to assist children and families to access the support they need
  • enabling positive transitions within and between settings.

For more information, see: 

Integrated Mental Health Promotion and Planning

Mental health promotion is not a stand alone ‘thing’ or a one off event.  For mental health promotion to be effective, all actions in these settings should be seen as opportunities to promote mental health. This includes:

  • planning health promotion actions that complement each other, and are included in overall strategic planning
  • building a shared understanding across the setting of the purpose of each health promotion action, and a clear processes for implementation and evaluation
  • integrating health promotion actions into teaching and learning, recreation and management processes

For more information, see: 

Building capacity for mental health promotion

All staff in schools and early childhood settings have a role in promoting mental health in children and young people.

Teachers and early childhood educators do this as part of their everyday activities and there are other professionals with health and wellbeing responsibilities. There is a clear benefit from educators and other professionals working together to develop programs and approaches to promote mental health.

School and early childhood education staff be supported to have the appropriate knowledge, skills and attitudes to promote mental health. 

These competencies need to be supported through professional practices that encourage staff to work together, and to build partnerships with other professionals:  Competencies and practices include:

Professional competencies

  • understanding children’s social and emotional development
  • teaching and facilitating social and emotional learning
  • promoting positive behaviour
  • listening and facilitation skills
  • understanding and promoting diversity
  • social and emotional awareness.

Professional practices

  • professional learning
  • establishing communities of practice and networks
  • connecting with mental health professionals
  • building partnerships with community service organisations
  • establishing and maintaining referral pathways
  • connecting with other mental health initiatives.

For more information, see: Building Mental Health Promotion Capacity for Early Childhood and Schools

More information

For more information on promoting healthy minds in schools, see: