COVID-19 Advice for the JCU Community - Last updated: 18 October 2021, 7am (AEST)

College/Division

College of Arts, Society and Education

Publish Date

2 June 2021

Related Study Areas

Students need counsellors and guidance officers

Mental health is not just an adult issue. Children and adolescents also suffer under anxiety and depression within the family and at school. This is why Judi Reardon trains future counsellors so they can help students become more confident and develop more self-esteem.

Students need counsellors to and guidance officers

“I think my teaching experience helps me to work with students in the masters’ course who have different backgrounds,” Judi says.  “It’s so important to recognise that learning environments can be very different, depending on organisation, the size of the school, and the area’s social/economic context, and likewise students’ needs.”

During her career, Judi says that she noticed that more and more primary and secondary school students were struggling with mental health issues.  “Those issues affect students’ studies and their lives. It’s important as teachers, counsellors and guidance officers, to work with students to provide support for them to achieve their best.”

A strong belief in justice and fairness

Judi has always been passionate about the rights of children. “I think it started when I was quite young,” she says. “I had a strong belief in justice and fairness. When I became a teacher in 1978, I felt I had to advocate for the children I taught.”

Judi says often society doesn’t give children and young people a voice, and this can lead to their needs going unspoken and unrecognised. In her work as a children’s counsellor and as an academic, Judi has focused on ethics and teaching, with an emphasis on the ethical duty teachers have towards children.

“Teachers see children six or more hours a day, five days a week, and focus purposefully on their personal and academic development,” Judi says. “When you think about it like that, you can see how much of a role teachers have in the life of a child. Working ethically is really important, as is advocating for the children in a school.”

Judi Reardon
Counselling session

Speaking up for children

As a children’s counsellor Judi has often had to speak up for children. “Part of counselling is helping someone to put words around what they are feeling,” Judi says. “This is particularly important for children because often they do not have the words to describe to an adult what is happening to them. I see my job as giving them the language to express themselves because that gives children a confidence. They know what they’re going through is valid.”

Mental health in schools

“Teachers face an ever-growing number of challenges,” Judi says. “Mental health for students is a huge issue in classrooms, schools, and homes. Some reports claim one in seven children under 17 have experienced mental health issues.”

Judi has seen that mental health issues, like anxiety and depression, are just as a common among children and adolescent as they are within adults.

“Our understanding of how children experience mental illness has been changing over the last 20 to 30 years,” she says. “We now know that quite young children can have complex issues and that the methods to help them need to be different to those used for adults.”

Mental wellbeing is important for student success

Being aware of mental health in schools and increasing the promotion of mental wellbeing is important for helping children to succeed in their studies.

“Teachers and guidance officers play a role in guiding children and giving them the support they need at school and for life,” Judi says. She says schools now focus on mental health alongside the other parts of the curriculum, something that has been even more important during COVID-19.

“This has been a time of huge uncertainty and stress for everyone, and children often pick up on that stress in their environment,” Judi says.

A children’s counsellor

After working as a classroom teacher and then taking on relief teaching work, Judi took her qualifications in psychology and counselling and started her own business in children’s counselling. “I wanted to focus on children because I feel like sometimes children’s mental health issues are downplayed,” Judi says.

But mental health issues at a young age can affect a child’s life forever. “Mental health issues in a child’s formative years can be a huge impact on their life,” she says. “It can affect their studies, their friendships, and most of all their confidence and self-esteem.”

Tough and rewarding counselling work

Work as a children’s counsellor can be tough but rewarding. Judi’s favourite moments are when a child’s mental health problems can be expressed to their parents and the family as a whole unites to help each other.

“It is such a great thing when I can help a family work together to support one another,” Judi says. “It really is the best situation for the child, to have their issues heard by their parents and to have that parental support. I think it makes all the difference.”

Children need more self-esteem

Teachers, children’s counsellors and guidance officers all have an important role in assisting children and youth with mental health. Part of this task is often starting a student on the path to improved self-esteem and confidence in their life journey.

“I've seen that over and over again,” Judi says. “We help children and youth be independent. You help someone on their journey, and you may never see them again. They walk away with their heads up. That's success to me, living and doing the best we possibly can for each other.”

Making a difference as a teacher and counsellor

“Somewhere, you know, you put a drop of good into the world, and the drop causes ripples that grow bigger. That's what I think is the most satisfying thing about teaching and counselling.”

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