11 September 2017

On Friday night I sat watching the Sydney Swans Hawthorn AFL game and noted the Beyond Blue dance entertainment put on at half time. High energy, eye-catching dancing with performers in dazzling electric neon blue suits. Contrasting against the dark night sky they certainly caught my eye. The Beyond Blue dancers were there to draw attention to the help mechanisms and strategies that exist for the issues of anxiety, depression and suicide that have become increasingly prevalent in today's society. An interview with Dr Julie Gillard, Chair of the Beyond Blue organisation followed. During the interview I learned that three million Australians are struggling with anxiety or depression, 1:8 people nationally, of which six cases out of eight are male. Two pertinent comments Dr Gillard made were:

  • We recognise the symptoms of a broken bone and typically we go immediately to seek professional help and remedy.
  • Can we recognise the onset of anxiety and depression and if so do we act accordingly when we are suffering or hurt in this manner?

The reason the half time entertainment and interview struck a chord with me is that during the past week to our staff and within Middle and Senior School classes we have introduced and showcased organisations such as Beyond Blue and Head Space WA. Boys had guest speakers, engaged in group discussion, classroom activities and discovered resources and how to access pathways they can use either for themselves or their family and friends if anxiety or depression take hold. These organisations, their work, strategies and accessibility must become a greater part of our everyday dialogue within schools, businesses, community groups and families. Recognising symptoms of anxiety and depression in ourselves or around us is critical.

The simple statistics detailed above underscores the move the College took last year in creating a Director of Wellbeing position and appointing Mr James Hindle into this role. Along with Director of Wellbeing the College has School Psychologists in each sub-school and Chaplaincy shared across Junior and Middle and Senior School. All of these staff are pillars of strength, knowledge and support and have a wealth of information for boys, or families, to draw on. I would be most grateful if you were to support our conversations of last week, to at some point have your son clarify to you what he knows about recognising, and getting help for these issues. As Dr Gillard pointed out, when we break an arm we seek immediate medical help and the prognosis for recovery is excellent. We need to cultivate the same attitude and approach in our youth, particularly male, that when anxiety and depression emerge, we seek immediate help; as with professional medical help, the prognosis around anxiety and depression is excellent too.

Mr Richard Ledger
Acting Headmaster

beyond blue