Hope amid students’ COVID worries
College principals in the Archdiocese are reporting heightened anxiety among their students as they deal with COVID lockdowns.
At Lumen Christi College Pambula on the NSW south coast, principal Shane Giles has seen spikes in students reporting mental wellbeing concern, especially relating to anxiety and school avoidance.
It was a similar story at Canberra’s MacKillop College where principal Michael Lee said there had been a discernible increase in students reporting issues such as anxiety and stress.
Almost three quarters of parents and carers of Australians aged 15 to 18 have reported worsening mental health in their children over the past year, according to analysis from the Australian National University.
Mr Giles said the combined effects of a drop off in tourism due to COVID and the trauma of earlier bushfires in the area had led to a cumulative and significant impact on the school community.
Additional counselling resources had been devoted to addressing the issues.
“We have a very strong pastoral team who are partnering with the students very closely,” he said.
At MacKillop College, Mr Lee said the situation with the Delta outbreak was different for his school community compared to the initial COVID lockdown last year.
“The students were not in a high risk category the first time,” he said. “This time they are at home with their families and they have not been leaving the house. It’s been a lot more challenging for families and the children.”
MacKillop College had extensive pastoral care and counselling arrangements in place to anticipate and manage issues.
“Students are being upfront about their concerns and they are working with school counsellors and with teachers who are invested in them,” he said.
“It’s not all doom and gloom.”
Director of Catholic Education Ross Fox said there had been a significant increase in school-based mental health support this year.
“This is primarily through the provision of more mental health social workers and psychologists who are embedded in our school communities,” he said.