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Good mental health in children is fundamental to their development. It helps children to learn well and enjoy life. Unfortunately, not all children have what they need to support their mental health.
Schools are an ideal platform for promoting children’s mental health, identifying early signs of mental health concerns, and supporting referrals to community-based mental health services when necessary.
Mental Health in Primary Schools (MHiPS) is a new model of school mental health support. The project trains experienced teachers to become Mental Health and Wellbeing Coordinators in primary schools.
Good mental health supports children in building positive thinking, emotional, behavioural and communication skills, and healthy relationships with family and friends. Having good mental health means having a positive sense of wellbeing, being able to cope with challenges and realise individual potential. This is just as important for children as it is for adults.
In Australia, over 8 per cent of children aged 4-11 years have a diagnosed mental health disorder, and 20 per cent of children experience mental health difficulties that impact daily living.
Mental health and wellbeing in primary school aged children is particularly complex. It can be difficult and overwhelming for teachers and parents to respond to the increasing prevalence and severity of mental health issues in the classroom, and understand how and where to access help for children that require additional support.
The Centre for Community Child Health at Murdoch Children's Research Institute (MCRI), along with partners at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education and the Victorian Department of Education, developed the MHiPS project to help build the capacity of Victorian primary schools to support the mental health and wellbeing of students. The project aims to:
1. understand the current mental health and wellbeing needs in Victorian primary schools by consulting with school leaders, educators and wellbeing staff
2. design and implement a new school-based Mental Health and Wellbeing Coordinator (MHWC) role
3. evaluate the effectiveness of the MHWC role in helping to address children’s mental health issues.
The Mental Health in Primary Schools project aims to upskill experienced teachers to become Mental Health and Wellbeing Coordinators by building their capacity, knowledge and confidence in promoting, preventing and addressing mental health and wellbeing needs in their schools.
The training program, a combination of self-paced online learning and group
The design and delivery of the program takes a participant-centred, problem solving approach that preferences teaching the ‘doing’ of the role over ‘telling’ participants what they need to know.
The research component of the MHiPS program examines the implementation and effectiveness of having a trained Mental Health and Wellbeing Coordinator within primary schools.
It investigates, the feasibility and acceptability of the training program and the Mental Health and Wellbeing Coordinator role, whether the training program increases teachers’ confidence to support student mental health and wellbeing, and if the training builds the capacity of primary schools to improve student mental health through increased mental health literacy and access to supports and services.
The webinar explored primary students' mental health and wellbeing during COVID-19 and its impacts.
This webinar was part of the
Thriving Children, Thriving Communities series. It described the Mental Health in Primary Schools (MHiPS) project – which places a trained Mental Health and Wellbeing Coordinator as an additional resource in primary schools.
Prof Frank Oberklaid presented at the IPSHA National Conference in Adelaide on May 28, 2022. Take a look at his presentation.
Feedback from participants in the MHiPS pilot program in 2020 has been overwhelmingly positive. The Victorian Government has funded the expansion of the model to 26 Victorian primary schools in 2021, with a further 100 primary schools to be added to the program in 2022.
For further information about the MHiPS program, check out the MHiPS website or email us at
The Centre for Community Child Health is a department of The Royal Children’s Hospital and a research group of Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.