Mildura Rural City Council (MRCC) Family Day Care didn’t have a mental health policy before they joined the Achievement Program in 2014. In fact, many people didn’t really know how to talk about mental health in their service, especially when it came to staff wellbeing.
“Before we started [mental health] really wasn’t talked about.” said field officer Katrina McGarry “Educators would tell us how the children were going but not themselves. People would hold it in and then everything would come out later.”
MRCC Family Day Care is an early childhood service where educators care for children in their own homes, and designated Field Officers serve as the link between the city council and the educators. Field officers regularly visit educator homes, to update them on new regulations, share news, monitor and support and check that they’re going okay.
Once MRCC started adding mental health policy, strategies and training to their agenda, educators and staff found that they were much more able to have open conversations when an educator or child might be struggling.
A key element for making this culture change was making sure educators were consulted on the mental health policy. The policy was drafted with the help of the service’s Quality Improvement Group which includes staff, educators, families and community members.
Educators have now participated in important child-focused training such as Kidsmatter and programs around working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. However there has also been considerable focus on educator wellbeing, managing stress and work/life balance.
A big highlight for all was the training session by Early Childhood Consultant Louise Dorrat called Looking after yourself while trying to juggle it all. This session helped train educators in strategies to stay fresh, make life simpler, time management skills, and letting go of perfectionism.
Katrina McGarry notes that the real key to talking about mental health and wellbeing at work is just taking the plunge “don’t be afraid of it, and ask questions, do some research. You might even find you enjoy it because it will end up making your service a whole lot better.”