Professor Lea Waters (front centre) joined by Principals from Upper Hunter schools

Australia’s first Professor of Positive Psychology is forecasting significant improvement to the mental health of residents in the Upper Hunter thanks to 16 schools in the district embracing the opportunity to introduce Visible Wellbeing programmes into their classrooms.

The initiative, which is being funded entirely by Where there’s a Will Foundation, will see more than 400 teachers trained over the next two years in wellbeing practices that can be integrated into every lesson and every project from pre-school through to Year 12.

Professor Lea Waters from Melbourne University will oversee the rollout of the programme, with the first 200 teachers beginning their training in Muswellbrook today.

“If you’re going to create change, schools are a linchpin because they have access to so many people,” Professor Waters said.

“They create a tipping point and a culture of change across a community because students take lessons to their homes, their families and into all of their relationships.

“This is so exciting for those of us working in the field of positive psychology – what we’re seeing in the Upper Hunter is a national first, we’ve never worked with 16 schools in one community before.

“You’ve got state, catholic and independent schools and all of a sudden any division just fades away and you’re left with a united group of people working together to improve mental health.

“As a result you’re going to see young people equipped to manage their own mental health and able to identify if things are not going well for their friends.  They’ll also have the confidence to say ‘I think you need some help’.

“Talking about mental health will be normalised.”

Professor Waters was particularly excited by the enthusiasm shown by teachers during today’s training session at Muswellbrook RSL Club.

“There was 100% buy in – all of the staff in the room were engaged and it was great to see those moments of self awareness and recognition of what this training means for them – not just their students.

“I think they’ve all been aware that Visible Wellbeing is something they’ve needed, we’re now giving them the ‘how’ and they’ve left the training with a road map of how to introduce positive psychology into their classrooms.”

Principal of Scone High School, Brian Drewe, said the way the Upper Hunter community has rallied behind Where there’s a Will had left all schools in no doubt about the desire to make change happen.

“We had to get on this train – because our communities are saying this is important to us,” Mr Drewe said.

“For a long time schools were all about academic performance and wellbeing was considered a side issue, now the emphasis is very much on a partnership between the two.

“Visible Wellbeing gives teachers another way to work that will allow them to engage better with students as individuals and improve their wellbeing.

“It’s been an eye opener to see different ways you can teach this stuff that creates better results academically and personally for our students.”