Ross Hill Public School to host mental health information night for parents

Ross Hill Public school principal Deb Baker, More Than Awareness founder Meg Perceval, Ross Hill senior psychologist education Karina Hutchins, P&C member Anthony Alliston and fitness trainer Nick King.

Ross Hill Public school principal Deb Baker, More Than Awareness founder Meg Perceval, Ross Hill senior psychologist education Karina Hutchins, P&C member Anthony Alliston and fitness trainer Nick King.

Leapfrogging and taking on wheelbarrow races, local children have been learning about the importance of social connections in a series of mental health/fitness workshops. A free parent information night will dig deeper into the difficult topic at Ross Hill Public School on Wednesday from 5.30pm.

“It’s pretty hard to have a wheelbarrow race by yourself!” Nick King said. The local karate and crossfit trainer has been putting students through their paces with a wide variety of exercises – from piggybacking to mini circuits – designed to remind them why we need each other.

“In the workouts we designed, you had to rely on your mate to get through,” he said.

“It was all based on life – when someone’s doing it tough, your mate’s there to get your back and make sure you’re doing alright.”

Founder of mental health charity More Than Awareness Meg Perceval agreed that social connections were essential to staying healthy. Teaching students and teachers about mental health, she said that exercise was also key in improving the balance.

“The links between exercise and mental wellbeing are very clear now,” she said. Ms Perceval, who has been conducting PHD research on the topic, said experts had found that exercise can help prevent, reduce the symptoms of and treat mental illnesses. 

Initially championed by Ross Hill senior psychologist education Karina Hutchings, the workshops are running as part of the RUOK Day campaign, which encourages locals to regularly ask friends, family and colleagues how they are. 

Filled with drum circles, dance performances and mental health tips, Inverell is invited to join local services at Victoria Park on Thursday for RUOK Day.

While she described the RUOK campaign as “wonderful”, Ms Perceval said it was important for locals to gain deeper understanding on the issue. She encouraged parents and community members to come along to Wednesday night’s free information session at Ross Hill Public School to beef up their knowledge on mental illness.

“To know what to do if they say they’re not (OK), to understand the importance of really, truly connecting with people. If you ask someone ‘Are you ok?’ it’s easy for them to say ‘Yeah sure, I’m fine.’ But actually deeply, meaningfully connecting with them.”

Ross Hill’s P&C are supporting the night, and for every student participating in Inverell East Rotary’s annual Sapphire City River Run in October, they will donate $10 to More Than Awareness.

“With More Than Awareness, they look at the whole mental health, but also physical health is a key aspect of that. By linking that to the River Run, we’re also facilitating a healthy body, healthy mind philosophy,” member Anthony Alliston said. He encouraged parents to come along on Wednesday to take part in the valuable training. 

Danthonia Bruderhof have been supporting the school campaign, and are donating platters of healthy food to Ross Hill students.

What to do if someone says they’re not OK

  • Ms Perceval says it’s important to give the person a choice on how they approach their recovery.
  • If it’s an emergency, call 000. They will direct you to ambulance, police or suggest another service if appropriate.
  • The Mental Health Line, 1800 011 511 is a state-wide, 24 hour service manned by a mental health professional. They can assess the urgency of the situation and suggest appropriate follow up measures. “Ideally if you’re worried about someone, you should get the person to ring with you, for the person themselves to speak to a professional,” Ms Perceval said.
  • You can present to the local hospital emergency department if it’s out of hours.
  • Ms Perceval recommends making an appointment with your local GP, who can prescribe medication if necessary, assess for related health factors and refer the patient to a psychiatrist. Medicare will pay for six sessions with a psychologist if the person is referred by a GP.
  • Counselors and psychologists can also be accessed privately. This is more expensive. It will include an upfront cost and may not be available through Medicare. 
  • Students can be referred to a school counsellor. 
  • Other useful services include Lifeline 13 11 14 for 24 hour crisis support, au.reachout.com which has several articles and tools on topics like exam stress, bullying and depression as well as an anonymous forum and Beyond Blue (www.beyondblue.org.au, 1300 22 4636) which provides mental health facts, resources for workplaces and schools, and various support options. The Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467 is a 24 hour helpline for anyone bereaved or affected by suicide.

“The key thing is that there is help available,” Ms Perceval said. 

“If that help in the first instance isn’t what the person connects with – say they weren’t happy with the GP’s response or they didn’t click with that particular counsellor or psychologist –  then I would really encourage the people supporting that person to try again. If the first door doesn’t work, there’s always a second.”

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