A project to explore the unique challenges of accessing mental health care for primary-school aged children in regional and rural Victoria, is the beneficiary of a Challenge and Change grant of almost $100,000.
The Ross Trust and other philanthropic organisations are supporting the work of the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI), who will explore prevention and early intervention models for school aged children experiencing mental health issues, with a particular focus on regional and rural Victoria.
The Trust is supporting this scoping project, given the possibility of advancing the national agenda and policy on child mental health and to better understand the impacts on education and the ability to learn. The grant strongly aligns with the educational equity theory of change and funding priority for the Trust.
Approximately one in seven school-aged children experience mental health challenges in any given year. This work is about intervening in a cycle which sees young people disengage from school and learning because they are struggling with social and emotional problems or learning difficulties, and build the capacity of parents and teachers to support children with their mental health. This experience is compounded in regional and rural settings where access to specialist support services is often limited.
For some time now, there has been a trend towards seeing younger children present with mental health issues and accompanying recommendations that intervention starts at primary school age.
This project is being undertaken, with a view to being ready to respond to recommendations of the current Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, with a fully scoped model. It will also allow a research-backed proposal to go to government and philanthropy to explore potential funding for the design, implementation and evaluation of a program that will respond to the issues identified.
Internationally recognised for his paediatric work, Professor Frank Oberklaid AM, is leading this project, which will involve the collection of qualitative and quantitative data from interviews, focus groups, surveys and a literature review.
Professor Oberklaid is the Co-Group Leader of Child Health Policy, Equity and Translation at the MCRI and a Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Melbourne. He has recently been appointed Co-Chair to develop the National Children’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy and is also Chair of the Victorian Children’s Council which provides advice to ministers on child health policies and services.
By designing and implementing supports that are tailored to the specific needs of regional and rural schools, MCRI hopes to enhance schools’ capacity to maintain engagement and address the education gap of children experiencing mental health challenges.