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One in four teenagers experience mental health issues. Around 550,000 young Australians between 16 and 24 live with anxiety and depression. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 24. 

High school years are fraught with real challenges, like exam stress, psychological and hormonal changes, and social changes. These challenges often precipitate mental illness.

Getting the right support for mental health issues is important. It is also important high school students get the tools and skills they need to face these problems, and cope with challenges more effectively. 

Research shows that deficits in problem-solving abilities lead to increases in depression and anxiety. Effective problem-solving skills help in both prevention and treatment of mental health issues.

In Brainstorm’s Wired, one adolescent deals with stress and overload, and the other with depression. The characters get the opportunity to choose their own adventure. One path leads to heightened emotional turmoil, and a feeling of losing control. When the characters take the alternative path, they find ways to address their challenges. The more a young person feels in control of their own life, and own their choices, the greater their resilience.

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School is back, after weeks of unstructured play, lounging around the swimming pool, and plunging into the ocean. Days with little to no structure are behind us, as parents prepare school lunches, and primary and secondary students pack their school bags, ready for school.

But how ready are students?

Associate Professor Stacey Walters, Associate Professor Leanne Lester and Professor Donna Cross suggest that transitioning into high school, or a new school can be a difficult time for some students.

According to their research, some of the key worries students have are:

how much homework they would have to complete

finding their way around or getting lost

classes being hard

unfamiliar teachers

and getting to class on time.

The Raising Children parenting website also suggests new students are worried about learning new routines, making new friends, and adjusting to increased workload.

So how can parents, teachers and educational theatre support young people starting at a new school for the first time, or transitioning into high school?

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Our urge to tell stories is innate, and takes many different forms. Gossip. Literature. Films. Television. Theatre. Our insatiable need for stories is driven by a need to understand and connect with others. It’s also a way to understand the world around us. As psychotherapist Anthony de Mello states: 'The shortest distance between a human being and truth is a story'.  

The power of fables

Storytelling has been used since ancient times to educate, entertain and connect. People once sat around the fire, sharing stories with strong moral and educational values. These stories, known as fables, were told and retold over generations. 

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As the R U OK? School Partner, Brainstorm Productions works closely with national suicide prevention charity R U OK? to help Australian school students understand the importance of reaching out and talking to their friends and classmates about life’s ups and downs.

Brainstorm Productions provides live in-school theatre programs to 350,000 students each year. The programs are designed to address student wellbeing and to provide students with day-to-day skills and strategies to deal with bullying, cyberbullying and violence. As part of the in-school programs, students are also provided with information about R U OK? and how to find conversation tips, helplines and lots of conversation resources on the R U OK? website. 

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Being Brave R U OK

Taking the first step and asking someone if they’re OK can take a bit of courage, especially for younger children. How do I ask it? What do I do if someone isn’t ok? What if a friend is really sad? These are just some of the questions that might be swirling around a child’s head. But learning how to overcome this uncertainty can have a profound effect, with children getting to share an emotional connection and learning how to navigate some of life's challenges.

Being Brave:

Brainstorm Productions performance Being Brave helps young children to understand that asking the question “Are you okay?” and taking the time to listen are only the first steps. While some situations and problems can be overcome by children talking to one another, more serious issues must be solved by involving an adult. Students are urged to help each other by seeking advice from a teacher, parent, school counsellor, a trusted adult or by phoning the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800. Many children are embarrassed to say they are experiencing difficulties and Being Brave encourages children to learn how to talk about their problems and show their feelings in an appropriate way.

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