Increased mental health support on the way for bushfire impacted schools

The number of school counsellors in bushfire affected communities will increase significantly, with the NSW Government today announcing a greater focus on mental health support for students and staff in the wake of the recent devastation.

23 January 2020
A teacher holding the hand of a student.
Image: Bushfire-affected students will receive additional mental health support.

Minister for Education Sarah Mitchell said the NSW Government will work directly with principals and their school communities to ensure there is tailored short and long term support available to best meet the needs of students.

"With the impact of the bushfires across NSW, there is a need to increase, target and coordinate mental health support for students and schools," Ms Mitchell said.

"Many schools have been impacted since November last year, with some staff and students losing their homes, seeing communities in distress and witnessing extreme evacuation efforts, which would be very upsetting for anyone to experience.

"So far, we've identified 113 schools where increased counselling services will be rolled out, 77 of which will need intensive support that we'll deliver in consultation with the school communities.

"Even students who were holidaying with their families on the South Coast during this time would still be feeling the distressing effects and we will be ensuring they are also supported upon their return to school."

Principals, P&Cs and other members of all school communities will also receive advice to ensure they can properly identify signs of stress in children, with principals encouraged to request additional counselling services if needed.

Minister for Mental Health Bronnie Taylor said appropriate and timely support can prevent more serious problems.

"We will be deploying existing school counselling staff to fire-affected communities to ensure our regional schools have the support that they need," Mrs Taylor said.

"We will also be drawing expertise from counselling organisations such as Centacare, Marathon Health, Royal Far West, Family Services Illawarra and MAX solutions."

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