Schools tackle mental health


As more and more children deal with anxiety, three Dunedin schools are stepping up to ensure they are looking out for the pupils’ mental health and wellbeing.

Mornington, Opoho and Bradford schools this month received support to the tune of $240,000 from the Otago Community Trust for its Nga Tapa Wha project.

The project aims to address the growing challenges all schools face in supporting children with complex mental health and wellbeing issues by targeting in-class programmes, professional development and community support initiatives.

When The Star visited Mornington School on Friday, pupils were taking part in Play is the Way – an activity time which focuses on self-control, self-motivation, empathy and managing relationships.

Pupils worked in groups to take turns throwing bean bags into three hula hoops.

School principal Brent Caldwell said the activity taught them to “persevere and not give up”.

It allowed pupils to deal with challenges and failure within the safety of the game, while also learning to “self-soothe” if things did not go their way.

“It’s teaching kids how to learn how to manage themselves and build resilience within the game.”

Pupils could learn the skills in the game setting, and apply it to their classroom learning.

Each classroom takes part in Play is the Way three times a week.

“More and more, children are exposed to anxiety which can affect how they manage themselves.”

The next step in the Nga Tapa Wha programme was to work on restorative justice and pupils being able to take responsibility for their actions.

The programme was “designed to give kids the life skills in managing themselves and their mental health”.

Opoho School principal Jenny Clarke said the aim was to “strengthen the lives of our learners” by partnering with parents to build the “solid foundations” in mental health and wellbeing for children to become successful learners and citizens.

Bradford School principal Melissa Mitchell-Bain said research showed the earlier “we can grow key life and self-regulation skills with children and whanau, strengthen relationships and sense of belonging, the better the outcome for their lives, their families and our society as a whole”.