Tasmanian students are learning about mental health

Teen sitting together in support looking out to sea

Through our Taz Kids clubs, Anglicare collaborates with schools, to support Tasmanian students who have a parent or guardian impacted by mental health issues.

When a parent is struggling, they’re not the only ones who feel the stress. Children also need a supportive environment where they can connect with other young people in similar situations. Anglicare’s Taz Kids clubs make this possible.

Anglicare has been delivering Taz Kids clubs in Tasmanian schools since 2011. With specially trained workers in Burnie, Launceston and Hobart, we visit schools in these regions on a rotating basis.

Clubs are run during school time for 7 weeks. Working in small groups, the first week focuses on building trust and setting expectations.

“We make Taz Kids Clubs fun. There’s a lot of teaching to do but we want children to keep turning up so we mix it up a bit. With primary school students we play a lot of games,” said Glenn O’Neill, Taz Kids Statewide Coordinator. “In the first session there’s a chance to create a bubble gum sculpture. There are giveaways and team building activities. With high school students there is more of a focus on discussions, but we still make it fun”.

Taz Kids explores mental health from a child’s perspective. We want them to care about their own health and wellbeing.

“We talk about the ways people can feel– about your thoughts and your feelings and how this impacts on your self-esteem,” said Glenn.

“There is a big picture of a person and we get the children to identify things that might indicate feelings of stress. From tears to a lump in the throat. A butterfly in the tummy. Being sweaty. Hair falling out. Clammy hands. Hearts racing or a dry mouth. There are no wrong answers. Everyone experiences things differently,” he said.

How to recognize mental health symptoms in others is also discussed. “Mums or dads might spend all day in bed. There might be issues around drugs or alcohol. Stress might come out as anger or rage,” said Glenn. “We quietly encourage the children to share their experiences but this is their choice”.

At the end of the program children walk away with a good understanding of mental health and a tool box of resources.

“We emphasise to the children that just because their parent has a mental health illness, this does not mean they will have one. We provide them with hope that they can lead a fulfilling life,” said Glenn.

Taz Kids provides children with information and encourages them to identify their support networks. This might include people in their families they can turn to – uncles, aunties, grandparents. But it also includes knowing where to go for outside help. One of the activities conducted at Taz Kids Club is to call the Kids Help Line.

“We actually call the Kids Help Line up as a group. We do this by speaker phone. Each child then asks the counsellor a question – which the group has decided to ask beforehand. This activity helps children feel confident to make future calls themselves,” explained Glenn.

Nikki Mann, Assistant Principal, Austins Ferry Primary School recently commented: “Thank you for running Taz Kids at our school. I know the students really enjoyed the sessions. Your program had a meaningful impact on one student in particular. He has articulated his excitement about continuing connections with Taz Kids”.

As part of Taz Kids Clubs, we also invite families to become involved in the wider Taz Kids program.

This includes parent newsletters and opportunities to attend family activity days. There are also camps held during school holidays. Involvement in Taz Kids is free for participants.

Find out more about Taz Kids Clubs and Camps.

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