Award recognises Sacred Heart’s support for students, their families and community.

A little school is having a big impact in its local community, through an innovative and ongoing commitment to the wellbeing of its students.

Sacred Heart Catholic School in Geeveston received a ‘Lifeline Tasmania Communities in Action for Suicide Prevention LiFE Award’ this month, in recognition of the school’s proactive work in the mental health and wellbeing space.

Principal Luch Brighella said the award was a wonderful recognition of the school’s long-term focus on mental health support.

“Providing wellbeing support underpins success for the students,” he said.

“If they are happy and supported and upskilled in managing anxiety and self-esteem, they are open to learning and want to come to school. The kids are generally happy to be at school. It is a safe haven.”

Sacred Heart is formed around a pastoral care model, with a range of student programs designed to promote resilience and support students experiencing anxiety, self-esteem concerns or mental health issues.

The programs include forming positive friendship groups, educational sessions and even parent mental health programs and drop-in support sessions with school psychologist Janelle Nichols.

Mr Brighella said it had been a particularly hard couple of years for the community, with the Huon Valley bushfire of 2019 leading into the introduction of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In the bushfire, a lot of students and staff were directly impacted and had to evacuate their homes,” he explained.

“It is a good indicator of the work we have done in the wellbeing space that families trusted the school to help and guide them in that situation.”

During the emergency, the school provided daily check-ins with school families and organised food parcels, care packages and financial support for those in distress.

The following year, while many wellbeing practices were already established to deal with the pandemic, Mr Brighella said he noticed an increase in students talking about self-harm and anxiety.

The school reacted immediately, providing additional resources and enabling students to have open conversation and ongoing support.

“It is critical because if we want them to succeed with their learning, they need to feel safe and be well supported,” he said.

“If students are anxious or upset or lacking in self-esteem, that will be reflected in their work.”

Mr Brighella said the school had been founded on Josephite values, and those values still held strong today.

“It has been a very difficult year, and in the community there is poverty, unemployment and other issues,” he said.

“The Sisters first came here to respond to a need, and we too are called to respond with generosity, compassion, tolerance, dignity and hospitality.”

Mr Brighella said he was grateful to be part of the Sacred Heart team, a group of people who went “above and beyond what we could expect” to care for the wellbeing of students.

“When we support students, we are also able to support their families and the wider community,” he said.

The ‘Lifeline Tasmania Communities in Action for Suicide Prevention LiFE Award’ was presented to the school by Relationships Australia CEO Michael Kelly.

Main image (L-R): Sacred Heart Geeveston Principal Luch Brighella, Vicki Smith, Janelle Nichols, Sylvia Wells, Kari Thomas, Stacey Cooper, and CEO of Relationships Australia Michael Kelly. Photo courtesy of Sacred Heart Catholic School.

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