THE fact that student welfare concerns accounted for more than one-third of all incidents at Central West public schools comes as no surprise to headspace clinical lead Emily Smith.
Of the 74 incidents reported by schools that involved students in the region, 27 (36.5 per cent) were for concerns about student welfare.
The most recent NSW Department of Education Incident Reporting in Schools document from July to December 2017 also shows that there were 25 violent incidents, followed by drugs (10), weapons (eight), inappropriate use of technology (three) and other (one).
Schools lodged reports detailing a range of welfare cases, including students self-harming, threatening to injure staff and some attempting suicide.
Details from a report lodged on September 6 reveal that Canobolas police were called to an Orange school after one student threatened another and the school was locked down.
The student then threatened self-harm and also to injure the principal.
In Chifley, a Bathurst student walked out of their school on August 4 and then attempted suicide.
On November 11, meanwhile, an Orana region student was verbally abusive to students in the classroom before leaving the room.
The student then “ran wildly around the school kicking panels and doors on the buildings, causing damage”. The school was placed into lockdown and the principal restrained the student, who was then taken to a quiet area.
Ms Smith said while the number of welfare issues was a concern, she was not surprised it ranked top for the number of reported incidents.
“It’s only natural that it would come out in the school environment, being that they spend a lot of time there,” she said.
“It’s also where a lot of their peers are.”
Ms Smith said teens regularly discussed welfare issues during appointments with headspace staff. Their concerns often included anxiety, self-harm, low moods and thoughts of suicide.
Often students’ concerns are not related to the school environment and their worries are about events occurring in their personal life or at home.
Ms Smith said people sometimes referred to a teenager’s behaviour as the “up and downs” or the “grumpy teenager”, but biologically it was much more than that.
“What we know about brain development is that there’s a state of change going on in an adolescent’s brain and it mucks up their ability to regulate emotions,” she said.
“It’s kind of like a construction zone.
“Regulating emotions and the ability to think clearly through things is compromised.
“It’s a time when they are at risk of flipping their lid.”
Ms Smith acknowledged that there was increased reporting and transparency in the public school sector these days compared with decades ago.
Another factor, she said, was that these days students and society as a whole were more open to talking about their own mental health issues.
Ms Smith said headspace was working together with schools to help them give teenagers assistance with regulating their emotions.
“We know that teens who are emotionally intelligent have better outcomes,” Ms Smith said.