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Summer holidays are kicking off around Australia, which means students will have more free time to play and have fun in the sun. 

But school holidays can be a difficult time for some kids. Changes to routine and being away from their usual school supports can cause them to feel stressed, down or lonely. Holidays can be a particularly vulnerable time for students whose families are struggling with grief, loss, poverty or family violence.

School holidays also mean more time spent online.

Posted by on in Wellbeing Articles

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Year 12 exams are nearly over, which means school leavers are letting their hair down and starting to celebrate. Schoolies events are on the radar of parents and teachers, and Year 11 students may be starting to plan their own celebrations for next year. Preparation is key, so it's a good time to start having conversations about the good, the bad and the ugly of the Australian Schoolies ritual.

Schoolies events are viewed by many as a rite of passage for adolescents, marking their transition into adulthood, greater independence, and a highly-anticipated life after twelve years of schooling. The event is seen as an opportunity to unwind after exams, have fun with friends, build new relationships, and create shared memories [1]. Research also shows, however, that excessive alcohol consumption is considered by many adolescents to be an integral part of the Schoolies experience [1, 2]. 

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In recent years we've seen greater acceptance and communication around the topic of mental health. We've also seen a growing number of initiatives aimed at reducing stigma and increasing support for people who are struggling with mental health issues.

During the month of October, communities across NSW will come together and hold events to celebrate Mental Health Month, which coincides with World Mental Health Day on the 10th of October. This year the focus is on sharing the journey: promoting positive social connections to help people cope with mental health issues, build resilience, and improve their wellbeing.

Bullying, and in particular cyberbullying, can have a serious impact on the mental health of children and adolescents. Students involved in cyberbullying have poorer mental wellbeing [1], and higher levels of anxiety, depression, stress, loneliness, and substance abuse [2]. 

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Social support is central to our psychological and physical wellbeing, and can buffer against the effects of stress and illness [1]. When families, friends and communities reach out and offer support, it can have a profound impact on the lives of vulnerable people, including children and adolescents. A simple and effective way to offer that support to the people in your world is by asking, "are you OK?"

Thursday 14 September 2017 is R U OK? Day, a day which reminds us all that we have got what it takes to ask, "are you OK?", and support those struggling with life.

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Today’s high school students have grown up using smartphones and iPads, and most have had a digital footprint since birth.

In 2015, eighty-two per cent of teens were online, according to ACMA research, and 80 per cent used a smartphone. These figures rise every year. 

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A recent survey of 20,000 Australian school children found that one in four students have experienced bullying. Bullying is when people use words or actions to repeatedly, and intentionally harm another person and is often conducted by someone who has more power or influence than the victim. The bullying cycle perpetually disempowers the victim, who feels increasingly helpless.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics CensusAtSchool survey, longitudinal studies have consistently found strong links between school bullying and mental health problems, with victims at risk of developing depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation. Similarly, perpetrators of bullying are also at risk of developing depression, anti-social personality and substance use disorders[1].  

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This month, Brainstorm Productions were thrilled to be part of EduTECH Australia, an international conference and expo, which brings educational providers together to discuss, inspire and exchange ideas.  Attendees at EduTECH shared the latest in digital technology, e-learning, robotics, and virtual realities for an education environment.  There are exciting changes on the horizon, as the world of possibility opens up with ease of learning, access to new information and advance in IQ and skills.

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Loneliness is real and it affects people right across the country – in  fact a 2016 Lifeline survey found 60% of Australians often feel lonely. While loneliness for some is related to physical distance from people they can relate to, for many it’s the fact that they’re surrounded by people but feel a lack of connection and social support. The good news is there are ways of keeping loneliness and social isolation at bay for ourselves and others in our community. 

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Brainstorm Productions’ travelling theatre groups for schools have been captivating hundreds of thousands of children across Australia for thirty years. Here’s why. 

“Children need art and stories and poems and music as much as they need love and food and fresh air and play,” says Philip Pullman, children’s author and winner of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

Picture books, and later, fiction form the bedrock of our childhood. Many of us not only remember the exact picture from a favourite book we read before bed as a child, we remember the thoughts and emotions we experienced at that time. Picking up the book years later is like looking into a crystal ball, and being sucked back into our past. It’s a direct link to who we were as kids.

Likewise, we hear a song on the radio we haven’t listened to since childhood, and we can recall every word, and can anticipate the next note. 

Theatre is the ultimate immersive art form, targeting every sense simultaneously. It makes complete sense then that the only memory I have of the Year Two split classroom is sitting in the audience at Ross Hill Public School, in Inverell, watching Brainstorm Productions’ H-Team. My memory typically isn’t that great, yet I remember the buttery colour of the room. Where I was sitting in relation to the rest of the kids. Where the teachers stood. The bright colours the actors wore. The words they spoke. The tunes they sang. How I felt at the time. Just as you recall key details about the absolutely best Christmas you ever had as a kid, Brainstorm’s primary school productions leave a strong imprint on your memory.

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On Friday 17th March, Brainstorm Productions will be working with schools across the nation to encourage all students to ‘take a stand together' against bullying and violence. 

Brainstorm Productions is proud to join forces with Bullying No Way and the Office of the Children's eSafety Commissioner to promote zero tolerance to bullying. We give students who are struggling with feelings of anxiety and fear strategies to deal with face to face and online bullying and the courage to speak up and seek help. Research has also identified the significant negative impacts on those who bully and those who witness bullying. We use theatre to show the perpetrators the consequences of their behaviour and give them skills to change their negative habits into positive behaviours. 

With Brainstorm Productions shows sold out well in advance for the National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence on Friday 17th March, many schools are running events leading up to the day or afterwards, so they can include theatre as part of their school‘s activities. Why? Read teacher testimonials by clicking here and discover why 99.7% of teachers would recommend Brainstorm Productions.

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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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How Theatre in Education Helps with Student Empathy 1

Recent psychological research suggests that empathy is the key ingredient in forming positive relationships. Empathy helps us connect with others, and understand their thoughts and feelings. This helps us know how to respond and engage with others.

What is empathy?

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Cyberbullying Australia 1

By Amy Williams - Guest Contributor  

As teachers, the battles we are fighting these days, together with parents, to keep children safe, can feel impossible to beat at times, due to the internet which, along with the good, has also brought the bad. From inappropriate content to online predators, there are risks to kids being allowed to surf online.

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RUOK

New Survey Reveals Aussies Spend more time with Screens than Quality Time with Family and Friends

A NEW national survey from R U OK? has revealed Australians spend an average of 46 hours of their weekly downtime looking at their TVs and digital devices, compared to an average of six hours engaging with family and friends.

The suicide prevention charity has also revealed that around half of Australians spend two hours or less of their weekly downtime connecting with the people who matter to them.

R U OK? Campaign Director Rebecca Lewis said the research has highlighted that we’re more intimately acquainted with our devices than the highs and lows of our families’ and friends’ lives. 

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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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5 Reasons your School Should be Booking our High School Productions

1.) Reward Positive Behaviour

As more and more schools move from punishment to positive disciplinarian approaches, theatre can be used as a highly constructive reward. Not only will high school students view this as a fun incentive for making well-balanced choices, but Brainstorm Productions theatre programs also reinforce and support school-wide behavioural expectations including anti-bullying, anti-violence, cyber safety and respectful relationships, to name just a few. 

And at a cost of only $6 per high school student*, including comprehensive teachers’ resources, a Brainstorm Productions performance rewards schools too.  

2.) Help Empower Students

Schools and teachers are becoming increasingly entrusted to help equip students with the social and emotional skills required to make positive contributions to society. 

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Wired Generation Next

 

The origin of the ancient art form theatre first appears in the 3rd century BC and was used in festivals that honoured the Greek god Dionysus. Digital citizenship, on the other hand, was only established during the 1990's technology boom, as a way to help structure what was considered appropriate and inappropriate use of technology.

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 STAAR Awards

Brainstorm Productions has been awarded top honours at the 2016 STAAR Awards, held as part of the 2016 ‘No 2 Bullying’ Conference. The organisation was presented with the ‘Stop School Bullying Award’ by the 2016 STAAR Awards Committee and the Australian & New Zealand Mental Health Association for their outstanding range of bullying programs. 

Judged by a panel of anti-bullying experts, Brainstorm Productions was chosen for their exceptional commitment to bullying prevention and for their outstanding contribution to anti-bullying education in schools. Brainstorm Productions uses live educational theatre in primary and high schools to connect and enact change with a range of bullying and cyber bullying programs.

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