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Inquiry Report

Amy Pickburn
Word Count: 1358

How has the Inquiry Project experience advanced my understandings of what good health
education might be, and why?

When first announced that HLPE1540 students would be undergoing a group presentation, I was
immediately drawn to the subject of mental health as I have always been interested in trying to understand
what it may be like for someone who suffers from a severe mental illness. My group consisted of two other
members and myself who came to the decision of researching depression, with a particular focus on
adolescents and young adults as it is a prevalent issue in todays society and may relate with some
audience members. Initial research identified that within Australia, one in sixteen adolescents are currently
experiencing depression, whilst 45% of Australians will experience a mental health issue at least once in
their lifetime (Beyondblue, 2016). These alarming statistics fuelled our desire to educate our peers on the
symptoms, diagnosis, treatments and severe effects that arise if left untreated.

After dividing our topic into categories, I took responsibility for explaining exactly what depression is and its
prevalence in Australia, and also the management/treatment options for someone suffering. I found that the
most effective way to undergo explaining what depression is, was to present a confronting video of
someone suffering from depression to describe exactly what it feels like and their personal experience with
it. After much reflection and reading of review sheets from our peers, we found that this was extremely
effective, with most students commenting powerful and eye-opening video. Before this though, our group
wanted to gain insight into the minds of the students in relation to depression and to gauge their current
knowledge on the issue. To do this, we decided to distribute out various questions to each table group such
as List some factors that may cause depression and What can depression lead to if untreated? By doing
this exercise we were able to see how much students already knew, and later in the presentation were able
to see what they had learnt from us as they had added new ideas to their sheets throughout our
presentation. Upon review, we found that this too was a positive in our overall presentation with students
commenting unique and effective way of interacting/engaging with the class that was different from other
groups and I liked how you did something different through group brainstorming. After further important
and serious information was discussed about identifying symptoms, understanding the diagnosis process,
the causes of depression, what it can lead to if untreated and lastly treatment options, we knew it was
important to lighten the mood a little and found we could do this through the interactive game of Kahoot.
During this game, questions were asked that could only really be answered if students were being attentive
listeners throughout our presentation such as One in [fill in blank] Australian adolescents suffer from
depression. This in turn, also worked in letting my group know whether we kept the audience interested,
and with most participants seeming engaged in the Kahoot, I could conclude that we succeeded in that
aspect. Furthermore, students also commented on the Kahoot as an effective learning tool, identifying that
it was well prepared and fun and interactive. Then, when ending our presentation we knew it was of vital
importance to leave phone numbers and website links such as Headspace and Lifeline Australia on our
powerpoint as we had discussed serious issues such as suicide and felt it was important to let our audience
know that if they were suffering, that there is help available and that they are not alone. Our peers also
seemed to believe this was important, commenting providing solutions and helplines at the end was good
to add.

However, upon saying this, there were clear downfalls in our presentation. Firstly, when looking back at
students review sheets, it is clear that we each lacked strong eye contact with the audience, detracting
from how engaged in the presentation each student could feel. This made me realise how important it will
be when I become a professional educator to be able to hold and maintain eye contact with my students in
order to make them feel involved and participate in class discussion. Eye contact, despite being a basic
critique in oral presentations, is one in which could drastically alter a student's health education because
from experience I know that if I am not connecting with a teacher (despite whether I am interested in the
topic or not), I will not be motivated to brainstorm and contribute to discussing the issue at hand. Other
issues raised in student reflections included, have more statistics, but less information on the slides,
project your voices louder and to further explain what helplines and websites such as Beyondblue
actually do. Each of these comments could have definitely improved our presentation as a whole and may
affect someones health education, yet were not the main issue in our presentation. The overwhelming
negative response was that we were too general and needed to focus more on the social aspect of
depression. One student commented, It would have been good to go into the specific groups that are more
likely to suffer. This critique was further reinforced by Jen at the end of our presentation, highlighting the
importance to focus more on the social side of depression (eg. Indigenous and LGBTQ+ health) rather than
the individual. When initially hearing this, I was shocked at how myself and group omitted this important
aspect, forgetting to look from a social perspective of depression. Upon reflection, it is clear we had such a
high focus on the individual health that there was no consideration on framing it as a social health issue.
This was definitely the biggest downfall in our presentation and may actually reflect how society often views
mental health issues as medical, or something being wrong with a particular individual when in fact social
issues such as stigma, culture, sexual orientation and race, have an impact on depression.

Upon further research after our presentation (with the realisation of where we went wrong), I found that
LGBTI people have the highest rates of suicidality of any population in Australia with 20% of transgender
Australians and 15.7% of lesbian, gay and bisexual Australians reported current suicidal ideation
(thoughts). (Rosenstreich, G. 2013, p.3). Furthermore, High levels of psychological distress, including
depression and anxiety, were experienced by 31% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young adults.
(Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010). These important and alarming numbers found in vulnerable groups
often are evident due to social perpetrators such as discrimination, racism, social exclusion, homophobia,
transphobia, heterosexism (discrimination in favour of being hetrosexual) and deeper historical issues such
as the removal of children from their families (particularly for Aboriginals). These social causes of mental
illness are also what creates stigma around issues such as depression, making it even more difficult for
people suffering to get help and openly discuss their illness.

Depression, being a serious and perhaps triggering issue for students, is one that needs to be discussed
and taught with delicacy. I believe depression needs to be apart of everyday conversation, which is starting
to be promoted by celebrities and individuals who people look up to (eg. Demi Lovato, J.K. Rowling). This
encouragement and normalisation of mental illness will hopefully reduce stigma in society and help people
onto the road of recovery. This task has advanced my understanding of what good health education may
be through deepening my perception of the serious mental health issue, depression, and by presenting my
findings to a class, I had to be aware of how to carefully discuss the issue. This consideration of care and
delicacy is hopefully mirrored in classrooms by teachers who, unlike my group and I, discuss the social
perpetrators of mental illness in order to help students realise society, rather than individual factors, may be
in the wrong. This task has also made me realise that from personal experience there is a huge lack of
discussion in schools about mental health issues and are often narrowed down exclusively to health
students rather than to the entire school, and is something in which I believe needs to be changed to
improve students health education.
Bibliography:

Beyondblue. (2016). What Is Depression? The Facts.

Rosenstreich, G. (2013). LGBTI People Mental Health & Suicide. (2nd ed., p.3). Sydney. National LGBTI
Health Alliance.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). (2010). The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander Peoples - Psychological Distress High for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People.
Media Release, Canberra