Today is World Mental Health Day. The theme for this year is raising mental health awareness and ways to look after mental health among adolescents and young adults and helping peers, parents and teachers support them.

“Currently in Tasmania, there are not enough school psychologists and other professional support staff to support the increasing number of students in our schools with challenging behaviours or mental health issues,” said AEU Tasmania Branch President Helen Richardson.

“As children’s mental health becomes one of our community’s most pressing issues, many teachers find themselves on the frontline and the lack of professional support for students is adding to their burdening workload. Our members are telling us that more and more students exhibit behaviours associated with stress, depression and self-harm and some educators are feeling unprepared to deal with this challenge,” said Ms Richardson.

“Teachers, principals and support staff in our schools want to give their students the best possible education so it’s vital that children have access to the professional support they need, when they need it.

“Tasmanian public schools have a ratio of one school psychologist for every 1278 students. The Australian Psychological Society recommend a ratio of one school psychologist for every 500 students.  Currently to support the needs of 62,000 students in our public schools, Tasmania has only 68 social workers, that’s a ratio of 900 students to one social worker. The Australian Association of Social Workers recommends a minimum ratio of one school social worker per 500 students.

“A recent survey of AEU members undertaken by the Australian Council of Educational Research (ACER) found nearly 90% of principals need more specialist staff to deal with student welfare. This needs to be urgently addressed. The survey also found that only 17% of school psychologists feel that their work is manageable. This means our students aren’t getting the help and support they need when they need it. It’s no wonder some students in Tasmania are waiting up to a year to be assessed, let alone receive the support that they need – this is not acceptable.

“We know that many of our students face significant challenges and barriers to learning and without support from professional support staff this will only continue to grow. We urgently need more school psychologists and social workers in our schools to provide students with timely intervention and support.

“Our Quality Education for All Campaign calls on governments to invest in education and give educators the resources and support they need to provide every student with the chance to reach their full potential,” said Ms Richardson.