October is Mental Health Month across NSW, VIC and the ACT, which coincides with World Mental Health Day on the 10th of October. Meanwhile the rest of Australia has been raising awareness of mental health and wellbeing throughout October, with Mental Health Week campaigns in QLD, SA, WA and Tasmania.
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Month is ‘Tune in’. This theme encourages everyone to tune in to themselves, tune in to others, tune in to their communities and tune in to the stigma that still exists around mental health. Tuning in means being present and aware of what is happening within you and around you.
When we take time to tune in to our emotions, we are more likely to make effective choices and build positive connections. This is especially important during the time of COVID-19, when many Australians are more vulnerable to mental health issues and feelings of loneliness and disconnection.
Below are some tips to help teachers, students and families ‘tune in’ during Mental Health Month 2020.
1. Tune in through the senses
We can ‘tune in’ to ourselves by using our five senses and taking time to notice what we can see, hear, smell, taste and touch. We can do this in our everyday life – whether it’s during our morning routine, while eating a meal, going for a walk, connecting with nature, listening to music, doing something creative or just sitting in silence. We can check in with our emotions by asking ourselves “how am I feeling right now?” and spending a moment focusing on our breath.
2. Tune in with small acts of kindness
We can tune in to others by asking someone how they’re feeling, offering help or just taking some time to have a chat. If you’re worried about someone in your life, you can learn how to start a conversation at ruok.org.au. We can tune in to our communities by attending local events, organising wellbeing activities at our school or workplace, or reaching out to a community member who may be isolated. These simple acts of kindness and awareness can help us all stay connected and well during challenging times.
3. Tune in through mental health education
Educators can help their students to tune in, be present and enhance self-awareness through mental health education programs in schools. Mental health programs are designed to enhance student wellbeing and resilience by improving mental health literacy, reducing stigma and encouraging help-seeking. Students can also learn to tune in to their emotions, personal qualities and achievements, and the diverse perspectives of others, through the social and emotional learning (SEL) curriculum. Social and emotional skills can be nurtured through learning areas such as Personal and Social Capability and Health and Physical Education.
4. Tune in through mindfulness in schools
Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment with curiosity, openness and a non-judgmental attitude. Mindfulness can be practiced formally through meditation, or it can be a more informal practice that is incorporated into daily activities.
Mindfulness programs are becoming increasingly popular in schools, as they provide students with skills that can be practiced and applied in a range of situations to enhance their social and emotional wellbeing.
A meta-analysis of mindfulness-based interventions with young people found that mindfulness practice was associated with better emotional and behavioural regulation, social skills and academic performance, and lower levels of anxiety and depression. Organisations such as Smiling Mind offer mindfulness programs for primary schools and high schools.
5. Tune in through theatre in education
One of our primary aims at Brainstorm Productions is to help students tune in to their own experiences and the experiences of others through theatre productions for schools. As an educational theatre company we use relatable narratives and characters to help students consider different perspectives, and reflect on their mental health, wellbeing and relationships.
Brainstorm Productions is an R U OK? School Partner, sharing important messages about peer support, help-seeking and resilience in Australian schools.
We are also endorsed as a Trusted eSafety Provider by the Office of the eSafety Commissioner. Our online safety education programs enhance resilience and student wellbeing, providing students with tools for responding to negative online experiences and building safer, more respectful online connections.
Brainstorm is touring a range of mental health programs for high school students in NSW, QLD and the ACT during Mental Health Month 2020. The high school productions Cyberia, Cheap Thrills, Verbal Combat and The Flipside encourage discussions around issues such as mental health, social isolation, risk-taking, and the benefits and challenges of the online world.
We are also touring a number of student wellbeing programs in primary schools this term, including Saving Lil & Archie, The Human Race, The H Team and Buddies. Our theatre in education programs help primary students build resilience, self-awareness and social skills. Each production is followed up by a Q&A with the actors and a full suite of curriculum-aligned classroom resources, which is a great way to complement existing school-wide mental health programs.
We are now taking bookings for our 2021 programs, which will have an even greater focus on resilience and mental health for high school and primary school students. Check out our full range of student wellbeing programs here.