Sophie O'Keefe, English Australia
Mental Health - It's everyone's business

In a survey undertaken by English Australia in 2018, a major challenge identified by ELICOS colleges in supporting students who are experiencing mental health difficulties was being able to identify these students early enough before their issues reach crisis point. One way of addressing this challenge is to provide basic training to frontline staff, including teachers, on talking to distressed students and on college referral protocols relating to students of concern.

This presentation will reveal data from the 2018 English Australia Mental Health Survey outlining common mental health issues experienced by ELICOS students as well as challenges faced by ELICOS institutions in providing support to these students. It will then move on to focus on the crucial role that teachers play in the early identification of students who are experiencing difficulties.

Participants will come away with an understanding of three practical frameworks adapted from the Human Connections ‘Accidental Counsellor’ training that can assist teachers in having difficult conversations with students they are concerned about and in establishing boundaries around how far they can help. These frameworks will be introduced through case study examples of typical conversations ELICOS teachers may find themselves having with upset students.

Sophie O’Keefe is the Professional Development Manager at English Australia. Previously, she held ELICOS Course Coordinator and Senior Teacher roles, where she developed a keen interest in staff professional development and growth and she firmly believes in the potential of professional learning to keep that teaching spark alive.

In 2018, Sophie led a national research project which resulted in the publication of English Australia’s ‘Guide to Best Practice in International Student Mental Health.’ Throughout this process, she was privileged enough to speak to ELICOS student counsellors and teachers around Australia on the topic of mental health and she is determined to set this issue as a priority on the ELICOS sector agenda.