2019 MHIS Conference, Presenters & Abstracts

    Dr Michael Nagle

Dr Michael Nagel is an Associate Professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast where he teaches and researches in the areas of cognition, human development, behaviour and learning. He is the author of thirteen books on child development and learning used by teachers and parents in over twenty countries and has delivered over 300 workshops and seminars for parents and teachers nationally and internationally. Nominated as Australian Lecturer of the Year each year since 2010, Dr Nagel has been an invited guest on ‘TV New Zealand Breakfast’, ‘Canada AM’, ‘Sunrise’, ‘A Current Affair’ and ‘The Project’. Dr Nagel is also the Queensland Director of the Australian Council on Children and the Media, a member of the prestigious International Neuropsychological Society, and a feature writer for ‘Jigsaw’ and the ‘Child series of magazines which collectively offers parenting advice to more than one million Australian readers.

Nurturing a Healthy Mind: Doing What's Best for the Developing Brain!

What are the most important things you can do to foster healthy development in young minds? What might smartphones and tablets be doing to a developing brain? What are the keys to developing emotional well-being in young people? Scientists know! Since the early 1990’s we have learned a great deal about the human brain. Importantly, neuro-scientific research has provided valuable information related to how the brain matures and develops and the complex interplay between nature and nurture. This presentation explores key aspects of the developing brain and shares what the latest science has to say about nurturing healthy young minds.

  Dr Jodi Richardson

Jodi is a mental health and wellbeing author, speaker and educator. She’s dedicated to helping parents and teachers understand anxiety in their children and students; how it makes them feel (and why), and how to respond in ways that empower anxious kids with the insights and skills they need to thrive.

Integral to Jodi’s work is helping parents and teachers to nurture resilient, relaxed, playful kids who develop lifelong habits of happiness and flourishing mental health.

Jodi has developed her expertise over two decades of professional work in teaching, wellbeing, clinical practice and elite sport; including working for beyondblue on the national schools-based initiative for the prevention of depression.

A mother of two primary-school-aged children, she is the founder and director of Happier on Purpose, the mental health and wellbeing expert for Parenting Ideas and together with Michael Grose, is the co-author of ‘Anxious Kids: How children can turn their anxiety into resilience’ and co-creator of ‘Parenting Anxious Kids’, an online course designed for parents and teachers of anxious children.

Moving Kids from Anxiety to Resilience

Anxiety is currently taking a heavy toll on Australian children and young people. It’s now the leading cause of ill health in girls from four to 18 and beyond. And boys aren’t faring much better either. Fortunately, educators are well-placed to pass on the skills and tools kids need to manage their anxiousness and develop lasting resilience.

This presentation will help educators to recognise and understand anxiety, how it impacts on learning and happiness and learn practical steps to lessen its impact on a child’s and family’s life.

In this presentation you’ll learn:

  • What’s behind the current epidemic of childhood anxiety
  • Key lifestyle factors that will minimise anxiety
  • How to respond rather than react emotionally when kids become anxious
  • Key tools to teach kids so that they can regulate their own anxious states
  • A practical definition of resilience that puts parents at ease and supports children and young people to thrive

  Dr Madeline Wishart

Madeline is passionate about adolescent mental health, with a special interest in nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI). Her PhD explored the psychosocial determinants of the acts and functions of nonsuicidal self-injury. At Nillumbik Community Health Service, she was the Project Officer on the Managing Deliberate Self Harm Project, and then co-developed and co-facilitated the From Harm To Calm therapeutic group. Madeline has also worked as a youth, school, and trauma counsellor. She has presented numerous seminars and workshops on managing NSSI in young people. She is currently working as a research fellow at Youth Support and Advocacy Service (YSAS) in Melbourne.

Coping skills in Generation Z: Beyond the instant gratification of  and  

Generation Z or the iGen are the first generation to have been born into our internet based, smart-phone driven society. Does this impact on their ability to cope as they navigate the tumultuous period of adolescence? As they strive for autonomy and independence, forming closer relationships with their peers, this has traditionally been characterised by some degree of physical and emotional withdrawal from the significant adults in their lives. Is the current social climate, driven by likes and the numbers of followers, contributing to an increase in maladaptive behaviours such as nonsuicidal self-injury, substance use, eating disorders, violence, and risky sexual behaviours? Why are some young people more at risk of engaging in these behaviours than others? This workshop will endeavour to explore these questions in the broader context of adolescent coping. Informed by current research and practice, it will provide an overview of positive, adaptive coping strategies, such as problem solving skills, emotion regulation and distress tolerance techniques for young people.

  Nic Newling

Nic Newling is an outspoken advocate for mental health, suicide prevention, and sharing personal stories. Nic has reached millions of people through television, live talks, radio, print, and online.

Since surviving his own mental illnesses but losing his brother to suicide, Nic now strives to make a continuing positive impact utilising sharing and listening to encourage helpful conversations around mental health, suicide prevention, and getting the most out of life. After working at the Black Dog Institute for six years he has now ventured out into sharing with the world by founding the grassroots organisation The Champions.

Nic has been featured on Australian Story, Conversations with Sarah Kanowski, Huffington Post, and NBC’s TODAY show in New York. His story has also featured in the ABC’s documentary series Man Up and his mother's Human Rights Award winning memoir ‘Missing Christopher’. He is an ambassador for Australia Day, Movember, R U OK? Day, and the Australian Mental Health Prize.

He now lives in Sydney with his fiancée Jaime and their dog Peanut. He continues to travel the world speaking, sharing, and working with people to help be a part of positive change.

"I feel like I haven’t seen you all in, like, literally three years"

Following Nic's hugely compelling presentation at the 2016 MHIS Conference, Nic's work has taken him to countless schools across Australia, talking to students and adults about the importance of mental health and suicide prevention. Throughout his journeys Nic has seen hundreds of schools take on the challenges of engaging students with their own mental wellbeing, empowering staff, and sadly, responding to the loss of community members to suicide.

So what can we learn from each other? In this presentation, Nic shares with us the real success stories from schools and also highlights the areas that need the most attention. We’ll explore what it takes to bring mental health out of the pages of health science theory and into the real world of a school culture.

So grab a cup of coffee and prepare for 60 minutes of mostly interesting pre-drinks conversation with founder of The Champions, Nic Newling.

  Jocelyn Brewer

Jocelyn is a Sydney-based registered psychologist with a special interest in the psychology of technology and staying human in a digital age.

Jocelyn has 15 years’ experience in public education both as a teacher of high school social sciences and as a School Counsellor/psychologist. Her 2009 psychology thesis explored the impacts of increasing access to Internet enabled laptops on a cohort of grade 10 boys and the emerging area of Problematic Internet Use (PIU), colloquially known as ‘Internet Addiction’.

Jocelyn is the creator of Digital Nutrition™ – a framework to guide parents and technology users understand the virtual nutritional values of the online media content we consume via apps and games on tablets and screen technology. Digital Nutrition was awarded the NSW Premier’s Teacher Scholarship for Health Education in 2014, and Jocelyn travelled to the USA in mid-2015 to further explore the issues relating to healthy technology habits and digital citizenship.

Alongside being part of the Cyberpsychology Research Group at Sydney University, Jocelyn is completing her Masters of Applied Science (Cyberpsychology) exploring the role of self-control and mindfulness in the prevention of Problematic Smartphone Use. This exploratory research surveyed over 500 Year 7 students in metropolitan Sydney and will be completed in 2019.

Jocelyn is trained in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), and uses a range of creative, practical and dynamic techniques to inspire positive change with clients in her private practice, where she works with all ages and life stages.

Jocelyn has a warm, humorous and engaging presentation style, and the ability to put scientific research into practical perspectives. She is regularly called upon to comment in the media on a range of issues and present to various groups about the impacts of technology and improving digital wellbeing.

Embedding Digital Citizenship meaningfully across the school ecosystem

To overcome concerns around the impact of digital devices on young people’s mental health and wellbeing, we need to do more than blame the rise of technology and social media or ban smartphones in schools.

Effective, explicit and embedded Digital Citizenship (DIgCit) education and teaching social-emotional learning is a crucial aspect of overcoming issues relating to young people’s technology use and one that is regularly overlooked from a whole-school, embedded perspective.

This presentation will help schools think more critically about the issues relating to young people’s technology use and provide resources, strategies and ideas on ways to build greater digital confidence, intelligence and wellbeing into whole-school policy, processes and learning.

Learning outcomes:

  • More fully understand the domains and application of Digital Citizenship and Digital Intelligence and ways of embedding these into KLAs, pastoral care or wellbeing programs and whole-school initiatives.
  • Develop an understanding of how to embed the Australian Curriculum’s Personal and Social capability (PSC) into into KLAs, pastoral care or wellbeing programs and whole-school initiatives.
  • Access a range of resources and tools to support DigCit education and teaching the PSC to support student learning and wellbeing outcomes.

  A/Professor Shanton Chang

Associate Professor Shanton Chang is a research and teaching academic at The Department of Computing and Information Systems at the University of Melbourne. His current primary areas of research include the Online Behaviour, Information Seeking Behaviour and Needs, and Information Security Culture. His latest research is on the information seeking behaviour and social networking patterns of international students. He has spoken at many forums on these topics and also published in the area internationally.

Challenging Assumptions: Key challenges around online behaviours

In the past decade, there has been a shift to the use of online technologies in education. Yet, some of these shifts have been based on assumptions about the behaviours 'digital natives'. Yet, research has shown that digital literacy continues to be patchy and that even the concept of 'digital natives' needs to be challenged. In an age where fake news and echo chambers seem to be on the rise, how can we use online technologies effectively in education?

  Georgie Harman, CEO Beyondblue

Ms Harman was appointed as the CEO of beyondblue in May 2014. She has significant and broad-ranging policy and service delivery experience in the community, public and private sectors in Australia and the United Kingdom.

From 2006-2012, Ms Harman worked at the Commonwealth Department of Health where she had national responsibility for Australian mental health, suicide prevention and substance misuse policy and programs, including those targeting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. She was one of the architects of the 2011 cross-portfolio National Mental Health Reform Budget package. At the same time, she was responsible for the early strategy and development of legislation to introduce plain packaging of tobacco products in Australia – a world first.

Ms Harman has also worked in the community sector and in private enterprise. She came to Australia in 1999 to be the inaugural Executive Director for the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation in Sydney – Australia's first and largest independent HIV/AIDS charity. She has also worked extensively overseas, particularly in non-government organisations in London.

Introducing: Be You

Be You strives to help educators build on the skills they need to foster positive mental health in children and young people, to help prevent mental health issues from arising, and to recognise and respond to mental health issues when they do occur

In this presentation, Beyond Blue’s CEO Georgie Harman will share the philosophy behind this single, integrated national initiative. She’ll share the professional learning package (see image below) which is accessible to all educators in early learning services, primary schools and secondary schools across the country, and to those currently studying Education in the tertiary sector. The presentation will explain the structure of the professional learning, which is made up of five domains and 13 modules.

The initiative provides around 70 trained and dedicated consultants from Be You delivery partners, Early Childhood Australia and headspace, who play an integral role in supporting early learning services and schools on their journey. The presentation will explain how Be You consultants can help schools and services design and implement a mentally healthy learning community action plan that’s aligned with existing planning processes, and supports continuous improvement.

The presentation will highlight the importance of taking a whole learning community approach to implementing the initiative and the value of working collaboratively to achieve meaningful, sustainable change, as well as explore the current landscape of mental health in the education, and how and why the Be You is important to improving the mental health of children and young people.

  Dr Bridianne O'Dea

Bridianne O’Dea is a Research Fellow at the Black Dog Institute, a translational research institute dedicated to understanding, preventing, and treating mental illness. O’Dea’s broad research areas are public mental health and health services design. Her research activities focus on two specific themes: i) Using technology to detect mental illness and suicide risk; ii) Using technology to deliver mental healthcare. O’Dea has considerable experience in designing and evaluating online programs and mobile apps for mental health as well as executing research trials that utilise internet technology. She is the lead investigator of Smooth Sailing – an online service to identify and treat depression and anxiety in high school students. O’Dea integrates her formal training in public health and psychology with computer science to design and test interventions that are scalable and low-cost but also engaging, and ultimately, translational.

Delivering online mental health services in secondary schools: From Knowledge to Action

Anxiety, depression, and self-harm are leading mental health problems among youth. However, help-seeking and access to care is low. Schools are play an increasingly important role in facilitating students’ help-seeking for mental health, by providing support, programs, and referral to external services. The Black Dog Institute is a leading research institute in schools-based mental health programs and initiatives. This talk will provide an overview of the Institute’s work in this area and in particular, the Smooth Sailing service – an online, mental health service that aims to improve help-seeking and reduce mental health problems in secondary students.

  Donna Redman (Melbourne Only)

Donna is a writer, speaker, teacher trainer and secondary educator. She has expertise in student wellbeing, establishing effective school systems and positive strategies for youth suicide prevention.

In 2013 Donna was awarded the NSW Premier’s Anika Foundation Youth Depression Awareness Scholarship and examined strategies implemented globally for youth suicide prevention and she recognized the importance of proactively enhancing teacher confidence within the school context. Donna assisted in the planning of the Wollongong Diocesan Suicide Pre, Inter and Post-Vention Strategic Plan. Donna’s company Awaken Youth facilitates NESA Accredited 'Gatekeeper’ workshops for teachers as well as targeted suicide prevention training for parents and guardians of young people. Additionally, Donna is an accredited trainer with LivingWorks and delivers safeTALK suicide prevention training to senior students in secondary schools. In 2015 she presented at the Suicide Prevention Australia Conference on the topic 'Teachers: the greatest untapped resource in youth suicide prevention.' She is a member of the Macarthur Suicide Prevention Network committee and is employed as a Telephone Crisis Supporter for Lifeline. In 2017 Donna presented workshops nationally at the Positive Schools Conference titled: ‘Positive Strategies for the Prevention of Youth Suicide’. Donna is also the author of the young adult novel Awakening Sebastian, which communicates a strong positive and preventative message regarding youth suicide.

Child and Youth Suicide Prevention in the School Context

This interactive workshop is suitable for school leaders, primary/secondary teachers and school counsellors. With a positive and hopeful emphasis, the workshop provide information on the pivotal role of the teacher as a ‘Gatekeeper’ in suicide prevention, particularly through their capacity to recognize young people at risk and refer them to professional support services. Attendees will enhance their understanding of protective factors that keep young people safer from suicidal ideation. Participants will then examine circumstances that put young people at greater risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviours. The workshop will enhance participant understanding in how these risk factors might manifest as warning signs that teachers should know and look out for. Participants will examine safe methods of intervention with students at risk, including clear guidelines on how to speak positively and appropriately with young people about suicide prevention. The workshop emphasizes the importance of self-care, arenas of safety and best practice regarding effective referrals and student follow-up.

  Jacinta Ashby

Jacinta Ashby, 18, completed her year 12 VCE in 2018, during which she entered Propsych’s inaugural Mentalicious Short Film Competition for students. Jacinta’s short film, Fairytales, is a documentary style film about the journey and the transition of her sister Helena to her brother, Hayden. Jacinta plans to continue tertiary studies in 2019. In the meantime, she works as a gymnastics coach and at a trampoline park. Jacinta has always had a love for the arts, where you will either find her taking photos or performing on stage, in musical productions.

Fairytales was selected as a finalist in the 2018 Mentalicious competition and has since afforded Jacinta and her family a number of opportunities to speak out and share their personal insights into the challenges confronted, and the joy and hope that has emerged as Hayden now identifies as a transgender Male. 

There is a lot of stigma around transgender people and what they're going through. This is my chance to showcase how transgenders are just like anyone else and their mental illness doesn't define them.”   Jacinta Ashby.

  Julia Nordlinger

With a License in Clinical Social Work from the USA and a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Melbourne, Julia has had an extensive career working in public and community services both in Australia and the USA.. For the past 15 years Julia has focused her work on the education system, and in particular how schools can promote and support student mental health. Julia began working in schools in San Francisco where her role was to design programs that prevent violence and reduce bullying in high schools. Since moving to Australia Julia has worked as the Student Wellbeing Coordinator at Ringwood Secondary College, where she designs programs that cultivate a positive school environment that promotes student mental health and wellbeing.

Creating Inclusive School Environments: supporting LGBT+ students and parents

This presentation will discuss strategies that schools can implement to become more inclusive of LGBT+ students and their parents. Strategies will be divided into those that develop the whole school culture, and those that respond to the individual. Examples of creative and effective initiatives will be showcased – especially Ringwood Secondary College’s “Stand Out” group which has been extremely successful in creating change. In addition the presentation will explore issues of governance and DET expectations, as well as both the benefits and the challenges of schools can encounter on their journey to become more inclusive.

  Emma Sue San, Redbank School, NSW DET                   

Emma Sue San is a School Counsellor who works in schools in Western Sydney, NSW. Emma is passionate about supporting young people suffering from mental health issues. She has a keen interest in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) and in 2018, completed a Premier's Anika Foundation Youth Depression Awareness Scholarship study tour of New Zealand, United States of America and the United Kingdom to explore the implementation of DBT Skills programs in schools to improve emotional regulation and distress tolerance strategies and decrease self-harm, suicidal ideation and depressive symptoms. She is now implementing DBT Skills programs in both mainstream and special education settings.

Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) in Schools

Participants will learn about the application of the school based social and emotional learning program, DBT Skills Training for Emotional Problem Solving for Adolescents (DBT STEPS-A) developed by Mazza et al (2016) which has adapted Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) skills specifically to be taught in schools by teachers to a universal student body. Principles and practical applications of the four key modules of DBT will be discussed: including Distress Tolerance, Emotional Regulation, Interpersonal Effectiveness and Mindfulness. There will also be discussion focusing on the importance of social and emotional programs to be teacher instructed and implemented universally across the student population, to support the de-stigmatisation of mental health issues and a common language of wellbeing throughout a school community.

  Dr Bridget McPherson

Dr Bridget McPherson is a Psychologist who specialises in the treatment of the educational and developmental needs of young people. After working in both inpatient and outpatient settings at the Austin Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in Melbourne, Bridget commenced as Head of Counselling at Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School in 2011, and has since actively worked in the provision of clinical intervention to students and families, and creation and implementation of prevention programs, including the Tuning in to TeensTM Whole School Approach, Wellness Week, Failure Week, and the School’s pastoral care framework, Holding Modelling Mentoring©. Bridget regularly provides seminars to staff and parents in the Ivanhoe Girls’ community, and she has presented at a number of national conferences. Bridget is dedicated to addressing the difficulties that young people face today, thereby enhancing their capacity to effectively and successfully lead future generations, both locally and globally.

  Alison Godbehear

Alison Godbehear is a Year Level Coordinator and teacher of Business Studies and middle years Mathematics. Prior to joining the education profession she worked as an accountant in both the corporate and not for profit sectors. Alison is committed to working collaboratively within school communities to support students to become healthy and well-functioning adults who have a love of learning. Alison oversees the development and delivery of pastoral care programs that address the academic, social and emotional needs of students. She has extensive experience in creating and delivering staff professional development programs and parent seminars aimed at supporting the school community to care for students inside and outside the classroom.

  Laura Dillon

Laura has worked in education for 13 years in Government, Independent and Catholic secondary schools. She specialises in the disciplines of English, Humanities and Commerce. During her time as an educator, Laura has held various leadership positions in the areas of student development and curriculum, including Year Level Co-ordinator, Head of Faculty and Director of Learning and Teaching. Laura is committed to developing student programs that develop resilient and emotionally intelligent young people. She firmly believes that learning in itself should be a valued outcome and that students need to develop a love of the challenges and opportunities for success associated with learning. Recently, Laura has collaborated with colleagues to create and deliver staff professional development programs and learning and teaching initiatives that enhance student engagement and learning.

   Philip Thiel

Philip Thiel is a writer, podcaster and English teacher. He has a background in the museums and community sector and has conducted research at the Universities of Melbourne and York. His professional interests include literacy teaching, peer-learning and best-practice pastoral care. He lives in Melbourne.

Holding, Modelling and Mentoring©: A holistic framework for pastoral care in primary and secondary school settings

Research has established that strong student-teacher relationships facilitate student motivation and engagement. Positive student-teacher relationships are associated with students’ self-confidence, learning focus, educational aspirations, class participation and persistence, in addition to decreased anxiety, fear of failure and disengagement. This impact is significant regardless of a student’s experience at home, suggesting that a teacher’s influence is unique and ongoing (Zyngier, Martin, Koughran, Ewing, 2014). Students become more adept learners, and more confident and stable people, as a result of having positive and consistent relationships with their teachers.

 As a means of building and sustaining these positive relationships, the pastoral care team at Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School has developed three concepts, each of which describes a mode of engagement that teachers can enact to promote student wellness and learning readiness: Holding, Modelling and Mentoring©. Holding (Winnicott, 1965) refers to the methods by which teachers can provide psychological containment to students in their everyday contact with them, ensuring that students feel safe, considered and important. Modelling encourages teachers to present themselves as well functioning adults in their community, thereby providing useful and realistic role models to students. Mentoring involves guiding students to challenge themselves and to embrace opportunities for learning and growth.

This framework has been presented to all teaching staff at Ivanhoe Girls’ in several professional learning seminars over the past 3 years, enabling staff to consider the practice of implementing each concept in their roles as pastoral care tutors and classroom teachers. The concepts align with the School’s pastoral care programs, including Wellness Week and Failure Week. Through additional Parent Seminars, parents have also been encouraged to utilise an aligned approach in the home environment, with the intention of ensuring that students are consistently responded to in a way that maximises personal growth.

The Holding, Modelling and Mentoring© framework has been very well received by the School community, and has generated notable shifts in teacher-student relationships. This seminar aims to provide a blueprint from which pastoral care and management staff can implement this methodology in their own school environments. 

  Lincoln Comans (Sydney Only)     Brando

Lincoln Comans has worked as a School Counsellor for six years in the Sydney and Hunter Valley region, supporting students with complex mental health needs and/or with disabilities within the education system. A central part of his work is to build strong, trusting and caring connections with students, staff, families and the community. This has been developed by the utilization of Counselling skills, multidisciplinary collaboration, preventative whole school wellbeing approaches, Positive Psychology and, most recently, the use of Animal Assisted Intervention. 

Canine Counsellor

Brando has worked as an Animal Assisted Intervention in the Hunter Valley since 2016. His work complements the work of a School Counsellor by being a vehicle for understanding of students’ own behaviour, helping students to regulate their emotions, be a conduit of unconditional positive regard and build the rapport of the School Counsellor within the school community. This presentation will provide a rationale for an Animal Assisted Intervention for students within a High School setting, how such an intervention might be implemented and the demonstrated outcomes.