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The mental health conversation has never been so strong.

But it doesn’t stop here. We must continue to support each other now and well into the future. Particularly we must support our children to give them the tools and resources to face challenges and to grow from them.

That’s why we’d like to introduce you to Professor Phillip Slee. His outstanding career of more than 30 years in education psychology highlights the importance of research in this area. As he says: “Research is imperative to get the impact which can then be translated to policy.”

Without research, we can’t make change and we can’t ensure the best outcomes for our children. Please read on to find out why his research is so important.

Professor Slee describes himself as a ‘big kid’. “Perhaps that’s why I never ended up leaving school,” he laughs.

His extensive ‘school career’ started as a primary school teacher and a volunteer who worked with children with physical disabilities.

“Whilst I enjoyed the school life, I have a primary interest in how we develop, grow and change,” Professor Slee says.

His PhD, which was in educational psychology, led to an extensive career addressing school bullying.

“European research was highlighting the extensive and harmful nature of bullying in schools and I wanted to see to what extent bullying existed in Australian schools,” he says.

Professor Slee’s initial research found that bullying was prominent in Australian schools, worse than in much of Europe. There were over 100,000 children getting bullied every day.

“That’s enough to fill a football stadium each and every day,” Professor Slee says. The children were subject to physical bullying, emotional bullying, exclusion bullying and cyberbullying.

The school environment and the rise of cyberbullying makes it a 24/7 problem.

Research led by Professor Slee and his colleague Dr Grace Skrzypiec demonstrated that if a child is bullying or is bullied in primary school, the risk of being a bully or a victim in high school increased to 55 per cent, and 56 per cent respectively.

Bullying has harmful physical, social and emotional consequences. Children and teenagers who have been bullied are more likely to experience depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation.

Will you please donate today to give our children positive strategies to cope with mental health issues they face in school?

Did you know?

A child’s friend is the first responder when they are dealing with a mental health issue. About 1 in 7 children between the ages of 4 and 7 have experienced a mental health issue in Australia.

Some of the common issues include:

  • Relationship problems (family, peers)
  • Eating or body image issues
  • Bullying (including cyber bullying)
  • Abuse (physical, emotional or sexual)
  • Feeling sad or depressed
  • Worry or anxiety
  • Self-harm or suicide

“The importance of early intervention for school-aged children cannot be underestimated. If we provide the tools and resources, they can better tackle some of the issues that they continue to face.”

Professor Slee says his passion for research is driven by humanity’s inherent need to do good.

“I have a strong committment to social justice and a strong commitment of non-violence as a way of life,” he says.

“We are basically socially relationship oriented – we are essentially good.

“Research is imperative to get the impact which can then be translated to policy and practical programs. The impact needs to be evidence-based – if we don’t have that, we can’t bring about effective change.”

Professor Slee and his team went on to produce an eight-week program called ‘Big Talks for Little People’, designed for schools and classrooms that teaches students and staff about bullying.

School counsellors, teachers and students reported significant and long-lasting benefits in schools running the pilot program. Some of these schools recorded the lowest level of bullying they had ever seen. Given what we’ve gone through this year, we must ensure our children are supported when they are at school.

We need to understand how to reduce the impact of bullying and promote wellbeing, how to deal with it when it occurs, how to make students feel safe at school, and how to reduce the likelihood of students joining in with the bullying of others.

We now need your help to further develop the program into more schools in Australia to equip children with the skills to have positive mental health conversations. It is because of this desire to continually do better that we must invest in youth mental health research.

That’s why we’ve developed the Big Talks for Little People program.

Will you help us? Will you donate today?

Big Talks for Little People program is part of a charity-first collaboration that sees Little Heroes Foundation and Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation joining forces to support a range of youth mental health initiatives under the banner of Little Breakthrough Heroes.

The two organisations saw the value in working together to address mental health issues that affect not only children, but their families, friends, teachers and the wider community.

It’s important that we provide early intervention and prevention strategies that equip children with the tools to ensure their wellbeing and resilience as they get older.

The program will include building upon Professor Slee’s work and introducing an animation element for children as well as providing a friendship bench for students to discuss the learnings from the program.

Youth mental health is incredibly important. If we invest in our youth, we provide them with the tools to be resilient and face challenges well into the future. That’s why it is critical.

With Christmas fast approaching and the end of the year to come, it is so important to renew our hope into a better future. Australian children deserve the best chances to develop and flourish at school.

Now more than ever.

This is why we need research into youth mental health. Please donate today to equip our children with the skills to have positive mental health conversations and give them hope for the years to come.

Need some positive and engaging ways to talk to your children about wellbeing?

Click here to download our printable conversation starters.

To support the classroom teaching of the Big Talks for Little People, it’s important for families to also talk about mental health in an open and positive way. That’s why we’ve come up with these conversation starters featuring the characters from the animation.

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