There is concern in Australia that more and more young people are having mental health issues.
It has been revealed that one in six Australians suffer an anxiety condition while as many as one in four aged between 16 and 24 has a mental health condition. These findings are based on the annual youth survey conducted by Mission Australia, a non-denominational Christian community organisation.
Meanwhile, the Australian Heads of Independent Schools Association says that there’s an increase in anxiety levels, a decrease of reliance and generally those attributes that you want young people to have to enable them to thrive in life have been eroded in the past decades.
These trends have resulted in the emergence of multi-million dollar ‘wellness centres’ in some of the country’s elite private schools as a means to combat growing concerns about teenage mental health. These centres are equipped with yoga studios, reflection areas and spaces for mindfulness, meditation and counselling.
More and more architect-designed wellness centres are being added to school campuses as private schools fight a scourge of teenage anxiety and depression, a feature writer in ‘The Australian’ recently wrote.
The development wave has been seen as schools shift their focus from traditional pastoral care to multi-disciplinary programs combining sports, meditation and counselling. The setting up of wellness centres comes in the wake of parents complaining about the rising school fees, which have risen at more than triple the rate of inflation over the past decade.
A child psychologist was quoted as saying: “There is a key connection between wellbeing and learning, so those that are putting up these centres into place are not only addressing the lack of social and emotional competencies but they are ratcheting up the chance that learning will improve”.
It has been reported that in some elite schools multi-million dollar wellness centres are emerging with numerous facilities. The more moderate ones – still costing up to about $10 million – will have a ‘centre for positive nutrition’, a health café and spaces for dance, movement, mindfulness and meditation set around a six-lane swimming pool and beginners pool. Another titled PLC Lighthouse project has meditation and contemplative rooms, consulting rooms for visiting specialists and dedicated nutrition areas.
Meanwhile, some schools are tackling the problem by appointing a director or dean of wellbeing.
Mission Australia states that for most young people, the journey from childhood is full of change, uncertainty and challenges. Along the way, they may experience stress at school, self-image doubts, relationship dramas and the pressure to choose a career path – things that are often considered to be part of the growing up process.
Pointing out that for some young Australians, these everyday challenges are compounded by mental illnesses, family breakdown and even incarceration and homelessness, Mission Australia says that these are challenges that no one, especially those so young, should have to face alone. “Young people who feel valued, loved and supported are much more likely to stay on track during their teenage years.”