MindMatters’ health initiative is a mental health promotion initiative for addressing the problem of mental health implemented in secondary schools settings in Australia. The initiative also offers professional development opportunities for the secondary school staff. Its aim is to enhance the recognition of mental health issues in academic settings and promote positive mental health for the staff and students. The concept underlying Mindmatters reflects a holistic model for the student wellbeing is central to curriculum changes as well as changes in policy and structures (Whitehead, 1996, p. 7). This paper discusses the planning and needs assessment as well as the best practice principles for the Mindmatters initiative.
MindMatters: Planning and Needs Assessment
The planning of Mindmatters involved collaboration between health experts and academics drawn from the Australian Council of health and various faculties of education with support from mental health education professionals (MindMatters Consortium, 1999, p. 7). Health promotion planning should be evidence−based to be effective and allow a sustainable change (Sheehan et al., 2002, p. 124). Mindmatters was initially piloted in 1997 in 24 schools in all states and territories in Australia. Later, the results were disseminated nationally.
Needs assessment is essential in health promotion planning as it facilitates direct engagement of the target populations and the accurate assessment of the priorities of the target population. In this way, it ensures the success of health promotion (Mau, 1992, p. 732). Mind matters involved a felt needs and comparative needs assessment through auditing of the programs, policies and practices of each school by the Mindmatters’ project team. Schools were able to identify the areas of concern. (Marmot, 1998, p. 58). In this way, the initiative was able to design a framework that allows each school to address its needs. The 24 pilot schools, drawn from different states and territories in Australia, provided 24 different programs and thus, each school could shape its own program to meet its needs (Lynagh Schofield & Sanson-Fisher, 1997, p. 48). A comparative needs assessment involved the application of the 24 programs in all schools depending on their settings and suitability of the program.
Mindmatters: Best practice Principles Approach to Adolescent Mental Health
The best practice principles rely on health promotion concepts, beliefs and values and are evidence−based (Hodgson, Abbasi, & Clarkson, 1996, p. 56). The best practice principles adopted by the Mindmatters’ initiative are central to its success in improving adolescent mental wellbeing as well as encouraging professional development in schools. The strategies and resources for Mindmatters were based on evidence or data from the 24 pilot schools, which provided a framework for the implementation of the program. In addition, a pilot program provided vital information regarding the sustainability of the project under different academic settings. The study design involved 24 schools from different territories and states, which allowed for reproducibility on a national scale.
MindMatters provides a structured program with many choices in terms of interventions for each school. It involves a comprehensive approach to health promotion in schools. By involving schools in understanding and identifying the gaps, strengths and needs in education, the program facilitates teaching, learning and curriculum development (Hazell et al., 2002, p. 21). The collaboration between parents, teachers, students and the local community facilitates the development of a health-promoting environment in schools.
The mental health promotion programs are usually effective when they are evidence based and dependent on the best practice principles. The Mindmatters’ initiative provides a holistic approach towards health promotion in schools for both students and staff. It is based on best practice principles and evidence or context of the school. This makes it successful in promoting the mental wellbeing of the adolescents, as well as that of the staff.
Hazell, T. et al. (2002). The challenges of evaluating national mental health promotion Programs in schools: A case study using the evaluation of MindMatters. The International Journal of Mental Health Promotion, 4(4), 21-27.
Hodgson, R., Abbasi, T., &Clarkson, J. (1996) Effective mental health Promotion: a literature review. Health Education Journal, 55, 55–74.
Lynagh, M., Schofield, J., & Sanson-Fisher, W. (1997). School health promotion Programs over the past decade: a review of smoking, alcohol and solar protection. Health Promotion International, 12, 43–60.
Marmot, M. (1998). Improvement of social environment to improve health. Lancet, 351, 57–60.
Mau, R. (1992). The validity and devolution of a concept: student alienation. Adolescence, 27, 731–739.
MindMatters Consortium. (1999).MindMatters. A whole school approach promoting Mental health and well-being. Melbourne: Youth Research Centre. Pp. 2−7
Sheehan, M. et al. (2002). Establishing a role for schools in mental health promotion: The MindMatters project. Sydney: McGraw-Hill. Pp. 118−127
Whitehead, M. (1996). Evidence-based education. Health Education Journal, 155, 1–7