Australian Rotary Health

Improving Mental Health of 0-12-yo

1 in 5 adults suffer a mental health disorder every year and 50% of these have their onset before the age of 14

The Challenge

Although there has been a strong focus on research and services aimed at improving the mental health of adolescent and young adult Australians, there is less attention focussed on addressing the mental health struggles faced by 0-12-year-olds.

This is a serious omission because each year approximately 14% of Australian children experience mental disorders—that is, approximately 500,000 children in this age range suffer from a mental disorder.  

There is also evidence that approximately 50% of mental disorders across all age groups have their onset by the age of 14 years. The time between birth and 12 years is a very important development period where success and failures can cascade down the years.

Improving mental health of 0-12-year-olds

Studies have shown that the overall prevalence of mental disorders experienced by 0-12-year-olds has not changed during the past 20 years.

“We need to find new ways of helping children and their families overcome this terrible problem,” – ARH’s Medical Advisor, Emeritus Professor Michael Sawyer.

baby crawling

Focus on Early Intervention

1 in 5 Australians experience a mental health disorder every year and up to 50% of these disorders have their onset before the age of 14 years.

Australian Rotary Health (ARH) believe that early intervention, particularly from the time of birth and 12 years, will reduce the incidence of mental health problems later in life.

Australian Rotary Health logo

Who is Australian Rotary Health?

Australian Rotary Health is one of the largest independent funders of mental health research within Australia.

They provide funding towards research grants, fellowships and PhD scholarships focused on finding preventative and curative solutions for mental illness in young Australians. ARH is a project of the Rotary Districts of Australia, with a vision to improve the health and wellbeing of all Australians.

The new research area was the focus of ARH’s 11th Research Symposium held in August 2022 and featured over twenty of Australia’s leading experts on the issues and research relating to children’s mental health.

In 2023, Australian Rotary Health will direct funding to 13 research projects, looking at such issues like interventions for parents of children with autism, anxiety in children and mental health of Indigenous children.

rotarians lift the lid
rotary walkers

Lift the Lid on Mental Illness’ is Australian Rotary Health’s national fundraising campaign and encompasses an array of entertaining ways to raise money for children’s mental health, such as their Lift the Lid Walk or Hat Day events.

Australian Rotary Health logo

Some New Projects For 2023: 

  • Mental Health of Indigenous Children in care 
  • Sleep & Mental Health   
  • Children’s Mental Health in Foster Care 
  • Anxiety in children 

Case Histories

Australian Rotary Health has a few success stories in improving mental health in children and teenagers.  

Here are some of our biggest success stories so far… 

Cool Kids Program  

Australian Rotary Health is proud to have funded the initial development and research trials of the Cool Kids Program—a program that has helped children and teenagers with anxiety in over 20 countries worldwide. 

Developed by researchers at Macquarie University, Cool Kids has significantly reduced anxiety symptoms in children and teenagers, as well as increase school attendance, academic achievement, confidence, number of friends, and involvement in extra-curricular activities.  

Approximately 60-75% of children who complete Cool Kids are disorder free after treatment. 

teaching girl

Teen Mental Health First Aid

Teen Mental Health First Aid is a classroom training program for high-school students in Years 10-12, to learn how to support a friend who has mental health problems.

Australian Rotary Health funded a trial of the program between 2014 and 2016, which was carried out by researchers at the University of Melbourne. 

The program started in Australia and it was not long before it caught the attention of internationally acclaimed musician and actress, Lady Gaga. Through her foundation ‘Born This Way’. Lady Gaga launched a pilot program of Teen Mental Health First Aid in the United States, with the aim to expand it to 20 schools. 

The teen Mental Health First Aid program was found to better improve helping skills and lower stigma towards peers with mental health problems, compared to a control group of students trained in physical first aid. 

be kind session

The program joins the widely acclaimed Mental Health First Aid training course for adults, which has been under-pinned by several ARH grants and has now trained over 500,000 people in Australia and over 2 million globally

Lights Out Sleep Program

The Lights Out Sleep Program was developed by researchers at Griffith University and has been highly effective in reducing sleep problems in preschool-aged children. This program received funding from Australian Rotary Health between 2018-2020.  

The program has decreased resistance from children around going to bed, reduce anxiety around bedtime, and lead to longer sleep during the night and less sleepiness during the day.  

Interestingly, the research also found that those who received treatment showed a significantly greater reduction in anxiety and behavioural issues, immediately after treatment, as well as after their first semester of schooling.

girl and bear

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