13 November, 2017
In early October, the ADRA Community Centre in Macquarie Fields in southwestern Sydney held an important event.
Minds in the Fields is an initiative run by the ADRA Community Centre in partnership with the local Police to help remove the negative stigma surrounding mental health. The event was particularly aimed at school students, and six local primary schools participated on the day.
Melissa Baleilekutu, manager of the community centre, believes the day was successful. “It turned out very well, we got some great feedback from the community,” she says. The day included a martial arts and physical fitness workshop, a movement workshop, calming art, and a drama performed for the kids.
It’s just another way that ADRA is helping the local community in a tangible way.
“It was very interactive and enjoyed by all of the kids,” says Melissa. The event helped to educate the children about mental health. Melissa says at the beginning of the day, there was a collective sigh when the students heard they would be talking about mental health. But by the end of the day when asked to fill out an evaluation, all the kids answered that they looked at the topic in a more positive light.
The program came as a response to feedback from primary school teachers who were worried about their students suffering from anxiety. “The kids in their schools were becoming more and more anxious at a younger age,” Melissa says.
The day helped provide resources not just for kids, but also for the schools that attended.
Each child left with a bag filled with activities and each school left with a kit containing even more activities.
Melissa believes it is vitally important to help equip teachers to deal with mental health, particularly in younger children. “They’re the ones that see their kids all the time, they’re the ones that really need more assistance,” she says.
Planning is currently underway to hold another event aimed at high school students. Melissa says she would like to see Minds in the Fields become an annual event, encouraging students to help plan the event and tailor it to their needs.
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Beth Morrow is an intern at ADRA Australia.