Anxiety and related mental health issues amongst young people has been increasing to alarming levels in recent years. A recent survey by the Australian Psychological Society (APS) has reported significant increases in Social Anxiety Disorder, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Depression, suicidality or self-harm and peer relationship difficulties in the 13-18 age group.
APS President Dr Catriona Davis-McCabe commented “While for many adults the pandemic is becoming a distant memory, its effects continue to devastate children across the country.”
Increased anxiety amongst teenagers is a contributing factor in the higher than usual rates of school refusal, where the idea of attending school causes severe distress, resulting in long periods of absence and potential long term disengagement from school.
Mountain District Learning Centre in Ferntree Gully runs a specialist education re-engagement program, known as The Cottage Program, which was created to accommodate young people 14 to 19 years, who have acute social anxiety and other related mental health issues, and have significant barriers to attending mainstream school.
The Cottage Program is unique in its design, offering a holistic approach to learning by providing education, in a non-school, small-group setting alongside a strong support system of youth workers, wellbeing programs and access to external programs and services.
Mountain District Learning Centre was recently recognised for the success of The Cottage Program as a nominated Finalist in the 2023 Victorian Training Awards, acknowledging that it has achieved a 95 per cent success rate. Out of 80 students enrolled over the past three years, 74 achieved a Year 10 alternative pass, eight went on to employment and 66 continued into further study.
Mountain District Learning Centre CEO, Janet Claringbold and Board Chairperson, Robyn Burke were honoured to receive recognition in the Community Training Provider of the Year category. They are proud of the efforts of MDLC’s Education and Training Manager, Alison Percy and the teachers and youth workers who run the program for the benefit of young people who need an alternative pathway to continuing education.