Catherine Johnson
Catherine Johnson
Catherine Johnson

Catherine Johnson

‘Training teachers to provide early intervention to primary school aged children experiencing mental health problems’

University of Melbourne, VIC
Awarded 2022
Co-funded with the Rotary Club of Flemington Kensington

“My experience in schools has given me a deep appreciation of the multiple roles that teachers play in supporting students’ learning as well as the profound impact that a student’s sense of well-being has on their ability to learn well and develop their full potential. “

General Health PhD Scholarship

Researcher Profile

I am a trained teacher and mum of 2 young boys and taught in the independent school system for a number of years.

I joined the University of Melbourne as a research assistant in 2018 to work on a NHMRC funded randomized controlled trial and evaluation of teen Mental Health First Aid in ten schools around Victoria. I also volunteer in community development in a disadvantaged neighbourhood in Geelong. I have a research interest in mental health literacy, student well-being, community education and effective use of mental health promotion and intervention in schools.

Project Summary

This project aims to develop evidence-based guidelines and training for teachers on how to best support primary aged children with emerging mental health problems in the classroom. Mental health problems in children are common, with as many as 1 in 7 Australian children aged 4 to 11 years experiencing a diagnosable mental illness, such as anxiety, in any one year. In the wake of COVID-19 and the associated periods of remote learning, teachers will require more information than ever before on how to support the mental health of children.

The proposed training would aim to increase teacher self-efficacy and confidence in using evidence-based strategies that are known to support children with mental health problems to fully engage in learning and minimise the impact of symptoms on functioning. For example, cognitive behavioural therapy techniques for anxiety, such as gradual exposure to stressors using relaxation strategies, have evidence to show their effectiveness.

Three studies will allow this project to achieve its aim: (1) a review of the scientific literature to determine existing strategies which teachers could use to provide classroom-based support to children (2) an expert consensus study involving teachers, mental health professionals and young people with lived experience of a mental health problems, to determine the safest, most feasible, and best-practice strategies for supporting children in the classroom and (3) co-designing and pilot testing a training package with teachers that can be delivered to primary school teachers and other education staff, such as Principals or Well-being officers.

Supervisors: Dr Laura Hart, Dr Jon Quach and Dr David Armstrong.

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