For schools in regional and remote Australia, ReachOut can play a crucial role in providing instant, reliable, evidence-based guidance without the barriers of traditional help. We spoke to education professionals in regional Australia about how they’re using ReachOut in classrooms, student counselling, and to support parents.
Bombala is a town of 1400 people in New South Wales’s far south-eastern corner. Ann Vroombout has been the Welfare Officer at Bombala High School for eight years. ‘I think it’s the best job ever. The best because you can put a smile on somebody’s face and you can help them to be whatever they want to be,’ she says.
Like many small towns, Bombala doesn’t have the same access to services as those in or near cities, relying on infrequent visits from professionals – including Ann herself, who uses ReachOut to support families.
‘Our students are from rural and remote areas. We don’t have access to the same kind of support workers as cities and regional centres. Our care workers come from out of town.
‘I’m in the school only one day a week, so it’s really nice to be able to have ReachOut. Some students and families have brought up issues like self-harm and I direct them and their parents to ReachOut. I print out the resources too. I make a care package including ReachOut information as well as some from parent health lines.’
Ann also uses ReachOut one-on-one with students, making them feel comfortable to spend time exploring what’s going on for them. ‘It’s really useful for me to get onto the website and do it with them. I’ll show them what it looks like; that it’s not scary. It’s good to be able to say ReachOut is a safe site, and it’s accurate, and it can help.’
Bonnie Brown teaches mathematics and personal development, health and physical education (PDHPE) at Walcha Central School, part of a 1500-person town in north-western NSW. Bonnie says the school has a strong emphasis on wellbeing, with a wellbeing team, annual wellbeing events, lots of ReachOut merchandise and fortnightly wellbeing lessons.
‘We have lesson plans that draw on ReachOut’s resources,’ says Bonnie. ‘They’re really valuable – especially the fact sheets. Sometimes we put an article in the parent newsletter about wellbeing, too. We don’t just use the resources, we promote ReachOut as a reliable place where parents and kids can go and get info.’
Bonnie says the issues faced by young people in Walcha are similar to those in other small towns, including self-esteem, trouble fitting in and feeling a sense of belonging. She explains ReachOut’s role in Walcha: ‘These days if you’re questioning thoughts or feelings that you’re having, the internet’s the first place you go. The reliable info needs to be there that gives helpful information and says “it’s not uncommon, other people are experiencing the same feelings” and gives some information about where to get help.’
The new ReachOut.com provides instant access to help, meaning no young person has to wait for support when they need it most. With our new platform, launched in July 2017, we aim to ensure a million more people in Australia access mental health services – particularly young people and families in regional and remote Australia. To learn more about how we’ll do this, watch the low-down from Ian Thorpe.
To start using ReachOut in your school, sign up to ReachOut Schools for free today.
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