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Dean Loosmore CFP® is inspired by the work Hannah James is doing in the local Gladstone community to raise awareness of the mental health and wellbeing of high school students.
ThinkAgain Australia – a Gladstone-based not-for-profit – first caught the attention of Dean Loosmore CFP® through the work of a well-known local, Hannah James.
In June 2020, Hannah, who was 19 at the time, organised an initiative called ‘Push for Change’, which saw the teenager complete 9,000 push ups – or one push-up for every student living in the Gladstone region – to help raise awareness of the mental wellbeing of students in the Central Queensland region of Gladstone.
“This inspired me to get involved with this great initiative, both financially and through my own physical activity of cycling 900 kilometres,” says Dean – a Director and financial adviser at Lio Financial Advisers. “ThinkAgain raised over $3,500, which was an amazing effort, with 100 per cent of these funds being allocated to facilitate ‘mental wellbeing programs’ within local high schools, equipping students with the resources to better deal with their mental health.
“I truly believe society would be a better place if we can assist our younger people make better decisions by providing them with the right tools, so they become resilient, confident and more secure individuals.”
Today, ThinkAgain Australia, which was founded by Hannah, is working closely with schools to help strengthen the mental health of students based in the Gladstone region. Why? Because Hannah says too many young people grow up without learning the skills they need to be mentally healthy. This means the prevalence of mental disorders in young people continues to rise.
She cites that 13.5 per cent of primary school students and 14.3 per cent of high school students experience a mental illness.
“That means of the approximate 9,000 students in the Gladstone region, over 1,250 students are struggling with a mental illness right now. And that’s a figure that can’t be ignored,” Hannah says. “At ThinkAgain, we believe these statistics are not okay, and we would like to do our part to turn them around. For many school students, mental illness is highly treatable, if not preventable. Our mission is to provide mental health programs to every school in the Gladstone region by 2025, because we believe all people deserve the chance to learn practical mental health skills,” says Hannah.
As a financial planner and accountant who enjoys giving back to his local community, Dean was inspired by Hannah’s commitment and drive to improving the mental health and wellbeing of students. He could not think of any other organisation that would benefit as much from a Future2 grant as ThinkAgain Australia, and so encouraged the not-for-profit to apply for a Future2 grant, which he willingly endorsed.
And the Future2 grant’s committee was equally impressed, awarding ThinkAustralia with a $10,000 grant for its school-based mental health and wellness programs.
Sitting at the heart of these programs is ‘Open Parachute’ – a Government-endorsed and evidence-based curriculum. The curriculum is based around videos of Australian teenagers sharing their stories of overcoming struggle, which breaks down barriers of stigma by providing real peer role models that students can identify with, learn from and emulate.
“Each of our programs are run by trained ThinkAgain facilitators during school lunch breaks and can be tailored to suit the needs of each school,” says Hannah. “The programs typically consist of one session per week for eight weeks. We know that skills learnt in ThinkAgain programs are skills that last a lifetime and have the potential to drastically transform the trajectory of students’ lives. For many students, whose decisions are led by their emotions, these skills are life changing.”
Hannah points to research that shows mental health interventions in schools can improve students’ resilience, mental wellbeing, peer relationships, focus, academic performance, and school attendance.
“It is our hope that, in the long run, ThinkAgain programs will not only transform individual lives, but also the overall mental wellbeing of local schools and the wider Gladstone community,” Hannah says. “Our programs are helping students to support each other through issues they would normally hide from their peers, such as: depression and anxiety, low self-esteem, eating and body image issues, bullying and friendship difficulties, addiction, and loss and grief.”
As student mental health is strengthened, Hannah expects to see a range of positive outcomes. However, she remains realistic about the organisations short-term objectives, which are: establish strong relationships with principals and student wellbeing staff in local schools; deliver programs to as many students in as many schools as possible; develop systems to measure wellbeing outcomes in schools; and partner with local schools and industries to secure sustainable long-term funding.
With the program costing approximately $50 per student, winning a $10,000 Future2 grant has been amazing for this start-up, providing it with the ability to fund an additional 200 students in the program throughout 2021. “This has been unbelievable for us and for the students living in the Gladstone region,” says Hannah.
“Statistics show that young people are most vulnerable to mental illness. Yet, it’s not uncommon for Australian students to complete 10-12 years of schooling without learning basic skills to care for and strengthen their mental health. Without these skills, students are ill-equipped to manage complex emotions that are a normal part of the human experience. Consequently, instead of being engaged members of society who are living productive and fulfilling lives, many students battle with poor mental health, or even mental illness.
“Our programs meet this need by normalising discussion about mental health in schools and equipping students with practical skills that they can use to manage their thoughts and emotions in a healthier way. With stronger minds and more resilience, students will be better equipped to tackle whatever life throws at them.”
Dean agrees, adding: “The Future2 grant has enabled a much greater awareness on mental health and wellbeing programs available for high schools and students across the Gladstone region. Hannah has achieved more in her 20 years than most will in their lifetime. She knows what it takes to give back to her local community and she carries herself in a way that totally aligns with the principles and values of Future2.”
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