Aussie Optimism Program By Curtin University Is Teaching Australian Children About Mental Health

06/11/2015 7:25 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST
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A five-year-old's ability to learn mental resilience is being demonstrated in an Australian program with astounding results.

Aussie Optimism is an in-school class that treats mental health like maths or science, teaching children from Year 1 up to Year 8 how to identify their emotions and put their lives into perspective.

Co-director Rosanna Rooney told The Huffington Post Australia graduates had less likelihood of mental health difficulties and suicidal behavior. A study also showed participants were able to more quickly recover from depressive behaviour when compared to the general population. They were also shown to be less likely to drink or smoke later in life.

"I think it’s a little bit like learning spelling and maths, you can’t do too much mental health resilience training," Rooney told HuffPost Australia.

"There is more and more pressure on kids inside and outside the home. Kids get very stressed and anxious, and one study now is looking at happiness and class grades.

"If children are happier and more relaxed, they can achieve more in life."

Interestingly, Rooney said it wasn't just the children who were benefiting from the program.

"We’ve got some evidence showing that when teachers run the program, their mental health and job satisfaction improves," Rooney said.

"For myself, I know that when I'm involved in training other people, it helps me remember what is important in life."

A Year 1 student will identify emotions like happy, angry and sad. By Year 3, they'll identify emotions in others and start to work on social skills and by Year 5, Rooney said the classes delved deeper.

In Year 5 we work on positive thinking skills,” Rooney said.

teenager school

“Kids at that age are able to see things from different perspectives.

“Sometimes problems can feel overwhelming but we teach the idea that ‘If you fail maths test, it’s not end of the world’. Maybe I didn’t study very much, or maybe I know my parents love me no matter what.

“It’s about putting life into perspective.”

Year 6 looks at assertion as opposed to aggression, making friends, giving compliments and optimistic thinking skills and by Year 7 and 8, there's a focus on more advanced cognitive therapy.

The program started in 1997 and is being constantly evaluated.

"Everything we teach is evidence based," Rooney said.

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