National mental health report 2013

Indicator 6: Proportion of primary and secondary schools with mental health literacy component included in curriculum

Page last updated: 2013

Key messages:

  • Australia has invested significant resources in programs that promote mental health literacy in schools - notably MindMatters in secondary schools and Kidsmatter in primary schools.
  • In 2011, 45% of schools had implemented a mental health framework, 60% were offering mental health programs, and 69% were providing mental health literacy resources.
There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that school-based mental health literacy programs can boost resilience in children and adolescents, assist school staff in identifying and intervening with students showing early signs of mental health problems, and encourage help seeking among students themselves.47

Commencing with the introduction of MindMatters in secondary schools in 1997-98, Australia has invested significant resources in organising frameworks that guide whole-of­school approaches to mental health issues. MindMatters provides a broad framework to assist secondary schools in promoting mental health and identifying and responding to mental health issues where they are present in the school community. Kidsmatter, which followed in 2006 and commenced with an initial pilot, provides a mental health and wellbeing framework specifically designed for primary schools and early childhood education and care services. Both support schools in promoting and protecting the mental health and social and emotional wellbeing of students and other members of the school community. Both have been evaluated positively by students and teachers.48,49 In addition to MindMatters and Kidsmatter, a range of other mental health frameworks are in use by Australian primary and secondary schools.

Figure 51 shows the percentage of schools that include mental health literacy components in their curricula, using data from Principals Australia's National Market Research Survey which was conducted in 2011.50 It shows that, in total, 45% of schools had implemented a mental health framework, 60% were offering mental health programs, and 69% were providing mental health literacy resources. 'Combined' schools (i.e., those which cater for both primary and secondary grade levels) generally fell somewhere in between primary and secondary schools, except in the case of the provision of mental health literacy resources where their uptake rates were the highest.

The uptake of mental health literacy initiatives in schools is positive, but there is still scope for further expansion, particularly in primary schools. Schools appear to perform relatively well in terms of providing resources and offering relevant programs, but are perhaps less successful in embedding these activities within an overarching mental health framework. These activities are less likely to be effective if they are conducted in relative isolation, and should be integral to the school's ethos and environment and woven through its curriculum.51

Figure 51: Percentage of schools reporting implementation of mental health frameworks, programs and literacy resources, by school type

Refer to the following table for a text equivalent of Figure 51: Percentage of schools reporting implementation of mental health frameworks, programs and literacy resources, by school type

Text version of figure 51

Combined (%)Primary (%)Secondary (%)Total (%)
Implemented mental health framework
53
37
59
45
Provide mental health programs
64
52
73
60
Provide mental health literacy resources
79
64
75
69