Resourcing educators to better support young people living in rural, regional and remote communities.

“Particularly where we are, we haven’t got resources where we can get a psychologist to come in and help us - you know we’re waiting six or twelve months for a child to see a doctor let alone anything like that. So I think that’s where it [CPS] was also very self-sustainable. Teachers and school staff could take this and go, ‘Yep, I can work with that’. That's the beauty of it.”

Teacher, Country New South Wales

The rate of mental illness amongst young people in Australia is unacceptably high. One in six young people live a life of significant social and/or educational impairment due to mental illness. Close inspection of these figures reveals that the distribution of mental health problems across Australia is far from uniform, and that young people growing up in rural, regional and remote communities are more likely than their city counterparts to suffer from poor mental health.

Young people living outside of metropolitan areas are at greater risk of depression, anxiety, drug abuse, deliberate self-injury and even suicide, when compared with their city counterparts. Added to this is the fact that there are fewer evidence-based treatment options (doctors, psychologists, and hospitals) available to young people in these areas. In fact, those living in rural areas have access to about one-fifth of the health care services as available in the city.

The success of any mental health initiative in rural, regional and remote communities relies on finding evidence-based approaches that do not pose a threat to young people, particularly when it comes to the perceived stigma attached to seeking treatment.

Thrive is a preventative mental health training program that avoids the stigma of mental health by weaving social and emotional skills into student’s day-to-day schooling.

Thrive trains primary school teachers and staff in an innovative evidence-based therapy from Harvard Medical School called Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS). Once trained, these teachers go on to use these skills in their interactions with students on a daily basis. These skills help all children in the class, including those with established emotional and behavioural problems, to develop better social and emotional skills and resilience.

Importantly, this model is a sustainable one – teachers go back to their school and deliver the training to the rest of the school staff. If turnover occurs, as it inevitably does, existing teachers can train incoming staff long into the future.

“I would recommend Thrive because it’s about working with the child. It’s time well spent. It’s that really clear framework of what to do. You don’t need a lot of outside resources. We don’t have to wait for people to come in. You can do it right now.”

Learning support worker

Over 3 years, Thrive will deliver training to 192 primary schools in rural, regional and remote communities across New South Wales, reaching a potential 12,000 students.