Long awaited mental health teaching resource a hit

Lynfield College teacher Kat Wells and Auckland University researcher Katie Fitzpatrick on the launch of a much-needed mental health teaching resource.

A long-awaited mental health teaching resource is already in such demand 100 copies were pre-ordered before it even launched.

Secondary teachers and students can now engage in learning about mental health in a meaningful way, thanks to the efforts of a Lynfield College teacher and an Auckland University researcher.

Lynfield College health and physical education head of faculty Kat Wells and University of Auckland associate professor Katie Fitzpatrick spent the past year and a half collaborating on a mental health teaching resource, with the aid of a Beeby Fellowship grant.

Taking action on mental health education and hauora

The ‘Mental health education and hauora: Teaching interpersonal skills, resilience and wellbeing’ resource is a collaborative project, supported by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER).

Before Kat and Katie began working on the new resource most schools’ go-to document was the ‘Taking Action – life skills in health education’ booklet, that was last updated in 1994.

“There haven’t been a huge amount of teaching and learning resources available for mental health, hauora and resilience, so I think this will help teachers to include some great stuff in their programmes,” Kat said.  

A huge and practical resource

 ‘Taking action’ has now become one section of a much larger resource. “It was an enormous job that seemed to get bigger and bigger as we decided we needed to include more and more.”

 “It’s a huge resource, well over 350 pages,” Katie said. “But most of that is activities. Step by step guides for teachers, background information - really practical stuff.”

The resources were adaptable to different year levels and different teaching and learning programmes, Kat said. “Every teacher will use this differently I expect. It is very versatile.”

Learning rather than ‘fixing’

While the resource has a strong practical focus, it is underpinned by research from the fields of health education, mental health, positive psychology, wellbeing and critical studies in education.

This was because it was important mental health education focused on learning rather than trying to ‘fix’ specific health issues or behaviours, Katie said.

“This resource supports teachers to plan and deliver lessons that will help students develop knowledge about their identity and wellbeing, their relationships and communication, about social issues and social justice, and about health promotion and action.”

Flying off the shelves already

At the time of writing the resource had not yet had its official launch and already 100 copies had sold, Katie said.

“Teachers had backordered it. Some got it before I did,” she said.

Kat was very excited that the book was finally in print. “It is lovely to be able to hold it in my hands,” she said.

“Loads and loads of people are saying they are excited to get their hands on a copy and start using it in their schools.”

Input from a diverse range of students, teachers and schools

The resources were created with input and feedback from teachers from a diverse range of schools.

The resource also had five different authors, Katie, Kat, University of Auckland associate professor Melinda Webber, Taking Action’s original author Gillian Tasker and Dr Rachel Riedel who each came with their own perspective. “I have a teaching background but I am not in a classroom. Kat is a classroom teacher and workshopped material with her students. She drew on things she did every day.”

“I was really pleased with how the students engaged in some of the activities that I trialled.  I asked lots of the teachers at my school to trial it with their classes so that we could have some good reflections/reviews together and it was great to see how positive it was across the board,” Kat said.

Resources have also been created and tested with the help of teacher education students at Auckland university, which was a great help, Katie said.

“I also just want to really thank NZCER. They have been fabulous and really supportive,” she said.

Larger focus on health education could combat mental health stigma

Katie believes a larger focus on mental health in the health curriculum could combat the stigma around mental health issues.

“I would like to see schools give health education as much timetable space as other subjects,” she said.

Mental health education and hauora: Teaching interpersonal skills, resilience and wellbeing is available in physical and e-book form through the NZCER website (nzcer.org.nz)

Mental health education and hauora: Teaching interpersonal skills, resilience and wellbeing (nzcer.org.nz)

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Last modified on Tuesday, 27 November 2018 11:53