It Takes a Village: An integrated approach to student mental health at Loreto Normanhurst

Loreto Normanhurst's holistic 'It Takes a Village' approach unites parents and educators, empowering students to thrive. Discover our transformative student wellbeing partnership.

Loreto Normanhurst is privileged to have a counselling team of five highly skilled professionals, all with post-graduate qualifications in psychology, psychotherapy, and social work. We provide evidence-based short to medium-term support and skills-based interventions for students experiencing emotional, interpersonal, neurocognitive and behavioural difficulties that impact their school functioning. What sets us apart is our commitment to working collaboratively with parents, teachers, diverse learning specialists, boarding staff, the school health team and external health professionals. Together, we embrace a ‘It Takes a Village’ holistic approach to student wellbeing.

We also place immense value on preventative approaches to mental health and wellbeing, recognising social and emotional learning and fostering connections as essential protective factors. We firmly believe in empowering students and building their capacity to develop skills that enable them to effectively manage and respond to their wellbeing challenges. In our holistic approach, the student is the central component within our supportive "Village," where their input is not just valued but essential in establishing meaningful and effective supports.

Our approach is designed to support students across three tiers of need, ensuring that every student receives the appropriate level of care. Tier one involves general, whole-school approaches to wellbeing, such as our Oakseed Program and Pastoral Care System that is effective and beneficial for all students. Tier two provides targeted support and is aimed at approximately 15-20% of students who require more directed emotional, social, and behavioural support. Our team collaborates with teachers and parents to provide this specialised assistance. The third tier is tailored to approximately 5-10% of students who require intensive, individualised, and specialised psychological support. These students receive regular counselling and diverse learning intervention, often in conjunction with external professional support. We continually review our approach to ensure its effectiveness in helping students thrive academically, emotionally, and socially.

Our commitment to an integrated approach extends to tailored opportunities for our parents and staff. Presentations and programs are offered to empower parents each year to support their daughters through various stages of development. A seminar titled "Meeting Their Chaos with Your Calm" was delivered in 2023 providing parenting tips for navigating teen emotional distress and building capacity to recognise and regulate feelings using emotion coaching. This year the "Parent Empowerment Program" was offered specifically for parents of Year 5-8 students, providing theory and practical strategies for supporting their daughters during early adolescence, enhancing family harmony and managing parent wellbeing. We also explore with parents a focus on anxiety, a common challenge among adolescents, teaching the psychology of fear and strategies to break the cycle of avoidance, helping students build self-confidence and resilience. In conjunction with parent programs, staff regularly participate in ongoing professional development run by the School Counselling team and guest speakers covering a range of mental health topics.

At the heart of our approach lies the belief that enhancing student wellbeing requires a partnership between parents and educators. The home environment plays a significant role in a young person's emotional wellbeing, making collaboration crucial. We've implemented a multi-faceted approach that engages all stakeholders in our school community.

Engaged and informed parents are an integral part of our whole-school approach to student wellbeing. We recognise that parents need flexible opportunities to connect with the school, which is why we offer livestreaming options or recordings for busy families and our boarding community.

During these sessions, we reinforce consistent expectations between school and home settings and draw on the expertise of our counselling team. This empowers parents to respond effectively to emotions and behaviours at home, increasing the likelihood of adaptive coping and functioning at school.

In partnering with parents, educators contribute significantly to students' holistic development. We emphasise the collaborative efforts needed to foster connectedness, strengthen social and emotional learning, and reinforce key relationships. This approach prepares students to navigate a complex world filled with future challenges.

At Loreto Normanhurst, we believe that together, we can truly make a difference in our students' lives. Our "It Takes a Village" approach ensures that every member of our community plays a vital role in nurturing the growth and wellbeing of our students. Through collaboration, support, and understanding, we're creating a village where every child can thrive.