Resilience Project will help St Joseph's lead the way in mental health

Murray Bridge's Catholic school will partner with renowned educator Hugh van Cuylenburg to help its students lead happier lives.

This sponsored post is brought to you by St Joseph’s School, Murray Bridge.

Assistant principal Deb Holland, centre, prepares for 2021 with students Majeanella, Joshua, Adelaide and Bailey. Photo: St Joseph’s School.

A Murray Bridge school will lead the way in teaching its students, and the community, how to be more resilient in 2021.

St Joseph’s School will partner with the Resilience Project and its founder, Melbourne-based educator Hugh van Cuylenburg, to equip its students to maintain positive mental health.

Gratitude, empathy and mindfulness (GEM) will be at the heart of the program, which will be rolled out through classroom teaching, special events, surveys and regular journal-keeping by students.

Student wellbeing leader Rachel Law said the Resilience Project would be much more than an afterthought for St Joseph’s School as it prepared to expand into years 8 and 9.

Students would be inspired to write down the things they were grateful for each day; parents and carers empowered with practical strategies; and staff members given resources, activities and knowledge to share.

“It’s a whole-school thing,” Ms Law said.

“We as staff need to practise GEM, parents can practise it, and hopefully it will permeate through the whole community.”

Staff have agreed to dedicate an hour each week to learning about the GEM principles, and will attend a webinar before the start of the next school year.

COVID restrictions permitting, parents and community members will be invited to a presentation by van Cuylenburg on March 22.

The school’s connection to the project started with a fateful conversation: a hairdresser recommended van Cuylenburg’s book to outgoing deputy principal Erika Dixon.

In recent weeks, copies of that book – also called The Resilience Project – have been turning dog-eared in the school staff room as teachers’ enthusiasm for the idea grows.

Statistics published by the Resilience Project demonstrate the need for a generation of more resilient children.

One in seven primary school-aged children and one in four adolescents experiences anxiety or another mental illness.

Almost two thirds of adolescents do not seek help for it.

The staff at St Joseph’s were determined to change that, Ms Law said.

“If school is a place where there is no taboo about mental health and getting help, that can be really powerful,” she said.