Primary school students in Victoria facing mental health challenges will get the support they need, under a new $1.2 million early intervention and prevention pilot program.

State Education Minister for Education James Merlino today announced a partnership with the Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI) and the Ian Potter Foundation to trial a tailored mental health pilot program in up to 10 primary schools.

This pilot will provide evidence-based training and resources to support school staff to better identify and respond to mental health issues affecting primary school students. The project will help schools build strong connections with community based health and other services so that students and families can be linked to these services as appropriate.

The pilot, which will be jointly funded by the Labor Government and the Ian Potter Foundation and overseen by MCRI, will start in selected schools from Term 1, 2020. The pilot program will run in five metropolitan schools in the North-East and five regional schools in Loddon Campaspe. 

Professor Frank Oberklaid, from the Centre for Community Child Health, a department of The Royal Children's Hospital and a research group of the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, said the pilot was a great example of a partnership between government, philanthropy and academia, and a model of applying evidence to innovative government policy.

"Primary schools are an ideal platform from which to provide mental health services because virtually all children attend school and teachers are in an ideal position to identify children with emerging or existing mental health issues and help put in place effective early intervention strategies," he said.

Education Minister James Merlino said there was a growing need for more mental health supports for primary school students, which is why this project was so important in determining what supports would be required going forward.

"We want to ensure our kids are happy and healthy, so they can focus on learning and have the best opportunity to succeed in education and in life," he said.

"Mental health among students is one of the biggest concerns raised with me by both parents and teachers and this is a first step in looking at what more we can do in our primary schools to address this issue." 

Available for interview: 
Professor Frank Oberklaid 

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Bridie Byrne                                
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+613 9936 6211 / 0427 836 176