Developing the skills to reach out

By Greg Whitby, 11 September 2019
Greg Whitby AM is Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta.


Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

On Thursday 12 September, Australia celebrates RU Ok? Day. It’s so encouraging to see schools supporting this upbeat campaign to raise awareness of mental health and wellbeing.

We’re much more switched on about supporting student and staff wellbeing these days. This has been a big, positive change I’ve seen in my working life in education.

Whether in the classroom or playground, schools are an important environment for students in developing social skills. Teaching young people how to reach out to others who may be struggling is a great life lesson. Even our littlest learners can be leaders in kindness and caring!

A very simple way that some schools show the importance of connecting with others is through ‘buddy benches’. Many primary school playgrounds now feature these brightly coloured benches that provide a place for students who are feeling isolated to sit, signalling to others that they need some company. In fact, RU Ok? has donated benches like these in some schools.

I’m very proud of the leadership that senior students show through RU Ok? Day, and on a more regular basis. In many schools, student leaders are active in organising activities as part of the day and later in October for Mental Health month.

The Teen Mental Health First Aid program is another useful way that schools skill students to support others who may be struggling. It’s about changing the way we think about mental health, recognising that everyone can be affected and being ready to reach out to help.

RU Ok? If you’re reading this and you’re not OK right now, I’m reaching out to you to encourage you to seek help. Some useful contacts include Lifeline on 13 11 14 and Kids’ Helpline on 1800 551 80. A detailed list of relevant contact numbers is available here.

Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta


Greg Whitby is the Executive Director of Schools - Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta
Read Daily
* indicates required