The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System

The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health SystemExternal Link was undertaken between 2019 to 2021 and highlighted the important role of education settings in promoting positive mental health and wellbeing.

The Royal Commission recommended that the Victorian Government:

  • funds evidence-informed initiatives, including anti-stigma and anti-bullying programs, to assist schools in supporting students’ mental health and wellbeing
  • develops a digital platform that contains a validated list of these initiatives
  • develops a fund, modelled on School Readiness Funding for kindergartens, to support schools, with priority given to those in rural and regional areas, to select the most appropriate suite of initiatives for them.

The government accepted all recommendations of the Royal Commission and the 2021–22 Victorian State Budget provided $200 million over 4 years and $86 million ongoing to create the new Schools Mental Health Fund (the Fund). Underpinning the Fund is an evidence-based Schools Mental Health Menu (the Menu), which aims to give schools the confidence to select, purchase and implement mental health and wellbeing programs that best meet the needs of their students, and to connect with specialist services where required.

The role of schools in supporting mental health and wellbeing

The Victorian Government is committed to improving student outcomes across our state. By focusing on wellbeing alongside learning, schools will support the ongoing development of children and young people, supporting them to thrive, contribute and respond positively to challenges and opportunities in life.

For most people, mental health issues emerge when they are young. Half of all mental disorders emerge by the time people are 14 years old and three quarters by 25 years old – the same period when most people are in education. Schools play a key role in providing a positive and inclusive learning environment for all students and equipping young people with wellbeing skills and capabilities to support their learning and wellbeing.

We know that:

  • a student’s ability to learn is influenced by their wellbeing and a student's wellbeing is influenced by their engagement in learning
  • schools provide positive and nurturing environments for students to develop a sense of belonging, the ability to develop positive and respectful relationships and communicate and collaborate effectively, the capacity to regulate their emotions and a positive regard for their physical health and safety
  • by building high resilience, schools equip students with the skills and capabilities they need to tackle current and future challenges to their wellbeing and mental health
  • schools play an important role in identifying signs of mental health issues, providing early support, and referring students to health services.

The role of student voice in improving mental health and wellbeing in schools

Victoria’s vision for learning and wellbeing recognises the fundamental importance of empowering students and the contribution that student voice, agency and leadership make to improved student health, wellbeing and learning outcomes.

We know that young people who are empowered by school leaders and educators to find their own voice in supportive school environments are more likely to develop a confident voice, a capacity to act in the world, and a willingness to lead others. We know that when student voice, agency and leadership is authentically enabled, there is a positive impact on self-worth, engagement, purpose and academic motivation, which contribute to improved student learning and wellbeing outcomes.

Schools are encouraged to ensure student voice informs how they design and implement mental health and wellbeing approaches and engage with the Fund and Menu. The Amplify practice guideExternal Link for school leaders and teachers provides useful advice on how to create the conditions, employ the practices and develop the behaviours, attitudes and learning environments that are conducive to student voice, agency and leadership.

The Inclusive student voice toolkit (DOCX)External Link has been designed to complement the Amplify practice guide, and provides resources to support the voice, agency and leadership of students with disability.

Guidance chapter with background information on the Schools Mental Health Fund and Menu

Reviewed 27 March 2024

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