Sienna Catholic College students year 8 student Ruby Savage and Jarrod Webster Grade 11 say breathing exercises help with dealing with the stresses of study and school.
Sienna Catholic College students year 8 student Ruby Savage and Jarrod Webster Grade 11 say breathing exercises help with dealing with the stresses of study and school. Patrick Woods

Calls for mental health to be added to school curriculum

AN "achieve at all costs" mentality is putting ever-increasing pressure on students, making them anxious and depressed, mental health experts say.

Some leading university professors do not believe schools have placed enough importance and due care on students' mental health and are adding to the problem.

University of the Sunshine Coast Professor Michael Nagel says getting that "cherished OP" is creating unhealthy expectations for students to achieve at all costs.

Prof Nagel said the expectations led directly to debilitating disorders, sleep disturbance, nausea and stress - and the students were sitting ducks.

"Schools might not admit it, but they put so much pressure on students to perform, they have a performance culture that creates stress," he said.

"Particularly with NAPLAN and QCS (Queensland Core Skills test), they're making it about not letting the side down - not just yourself and one's own goals.

"In the short term, schools would do well to have programs in place to help kids understand about how to deal with stress and teach them about mental health.

"Some schools do do it, almost ad hoc, but a concerted effort across all schools would help address the issue."

 

Sienna Catholic College students year 8 student Ruby Savage and Jarrod Webster Grade 11 say breathing exercises help with dealing with the stresses of study and school.
Sienna Catholic College students year 8 student Ruby Savage and Jarrod Webster Grade 11 say breathing exercises help with dealing with the stresses of study and school. Patrick Woods

USC Professor of Youth Mental Health Daniel Hermens has spoken to school counsellors at length who've told him youths as young as 12 are expressing interest regarding mental health.

While he agreed that students at exam time were fragile, the mental health issues stemmed from a wider range of things.

"Adolescents are in a time where so many changes are taking place, it is a really critical transition from primary to high school," Prof Hermens said.

"They're getting ready to become an adult.

"It isn't just exam stress. It is biological and emotional.

"Therefore, educating young people is crucial."

Prof Hermens said it was encouraging today's youths were beginning to ask their own questions regarding stress, anxiety and depression.

With a little push from schools and parents, more students would benefit, he said.

"Gone are the days when mental health would be described as a nervous breakdown," he said.

 

Sienna Catholic College students year 8 student Ruby Savage and Jarrod Webster Grade 11 say breathing exercises help with dealing with the stresses of study and school.
Sienna Catholic College students year 8 student Ruby Savage and Jarrod Webster Grade 11 say breathing exercises help with dealing with the stresses of study and school. Patrick Woods

One Sunshine Coast school that has taken a proactive approach to dealing with mental health issues is Siena Catholic College at Sippy Downs.

At the end of lunch each day, the 900-plus cohort and staff go through breathing exercises.

Assistant principal Pat Toohey said the activity helped deal with stress and enabled the students to re-centre themselves.

He said 91 per cent of feedback was positive.

Siena Year 11 student Jarrod Webster admitted having difficulty with his study load.

"As you move up the grades, there is a lot more work without a break," Jarrod said.

"In Grade 11, you get to a point where you're so set in your ways, you never stop to think about anything but work.

"Knowing how to deal with stress and anxiety would make it easier."

Jarrod and students Ruby Savage and Frank Kelly all agreed the breathing exercises helped them find focus.

"It is a positive way after running around at lunch to get back into the mood of school," Ruby said.

"It can be hectic coming back after lunch but this helps us cool down."

Education Queensland were approached for comment.



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