Last week, teachers at REACH got through the final lesson of a “mental health care” training course. The training course was delivered by Lisa Bernstein, a senior student counselor from RMIT university. It included 2 modules “Basic help skills” and “Self-care and boundaries”.
The training is a part of REACH’s staff capacity-building strategy. It aims to equip staff and teachers at REACH with a basic understanding of, and skills in, mental health to better support disadvantaged youth.
“REACH is like a combination of a school and a social center. Our students cope with a lot of stress due to their disadvantaged circumstances”, said Hang Nguyen, the training coordinator at REACH. “Some of them even have trauma”.
Providing vocational training for these youth requires teachers to have various “know-how” skills. In addition to having in-depth technical knowledge and practical experience, teachers need to understand students, and to have skills to support them to overcome their disadvantaged backgrounds.
“We are not only their teacher but also their counselor”, Ngoc Nguyen, the F&B teacher, says. “In fact, they consider us as parents who they often ask for help and advice both in terms of study and life in general.”
Therefore, this training course is very necessary and really appreciated by teachers at REACH.
Lisa provided them with techniques to identify students with mental health issues. They also discussed processes to support various cases through the training module “Basic help skills”.
“We are not able to become a professional psychologist with only a couple of training lessons,” Hang Nguyen says. “But it did show us how to properly process student issues that we often meet every day.”
The training improves practices in mental support for students at REACH. Furthermore, it also helps our staff to balance themselves. Working with students with extremely difficult circumstances can have an adverse effect on their own mental health.
“In the past, sometimes I felt overwhelmed or disappointed when I witnessed a difficult case but couldn’t help them.” Hiep Hong, the Step-Up project coordinator, says. “But now I understand that could happen to a professional social worker. It is very necessary to set boundaries and take care of ourselves too.”
The training was made possible by Leanne Dowler, a volunteer from the Australian Volunteer Program. Dowler has been instrumental in developing the REACH Training Needs Analysis. This is a comprehensive plan to upskill REACH staff in a number of areas to ensure our training program is top-notch.
Other organizations that have supported staff training sessions at REACH including Ignite, RMIT, British Council, and Blue Dragon. These high-quality trainings have positively changed our practices and subsequently improved our program quality.