Health Workers Equipped to Deal With Self-Harmers
News Release FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 18 March 2008
High School Health Workers Equipped to Deal With Students Hurting Themselves
A New Zealand first pilot scheme developed to support school based health teams deal with the problem has proven successful at three Waikato high schools.
General Practitioners, school nurses and counsellors working in central North Island high schools concerned by escalating numbers of students presenting self harm behaviours have been seeking better ways to support young people deal with the complexities of self harm.
Erica Amon, Operations Manager for Waikato Primary Health, says school support staff reported ongoing issues in managing and referring at-risk students.
"They are extremely capable and highly trained health teams but they felt isolated and were unsure of how to refer students to other healthcare providers for prompt assessment," says Amon.
"Guidelines developed for schools in our country have a strong suicide prevention focus but don't really mention self harming behaviours. The schools have been saying they need strategies to work more effectively with the number of young people needing support.
"We rely on parents to play a vital role in their teen's life but young people do a lot of their 'living' at school. School is exactly the right place for health professionals to provide care and support from—they are passionate people with the ability to positively influence young people's lives. It makes sense to provide targeted support to help them manage the complex needs of these young people.
Funded by Waikato Primary Health the Secondary School Targeted Staff Support Programme was developed by a consultant clinical psychologist specialising in mental health and implemented in three Waikato high schools during Terms 3 and 4, 2007.
The psychologist was available to work with staff for 80 hours per term, shared between participating schools for approximately 27 hours per school. Professional development, training, consultation and reassurance as well as assessment and management tools provided by the psychologist proved extremely useful.
"The good news is since completing our pilot scheme staff have reported a significant reduction in stress levels and increased personal confidence in dealing with self harm in students," says Amon.
The programme was inexpensive, has broad benefits for schools and students and it is hoped there will be follow up sessions to ensure gains made during this pilot period could be built upon over time. Another three Waikato high schools will be participating this year.