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A School-based Counseling Programme: A Pilot Project to Address Depression and Improve Positive Mental Health Among Students in Australia

A School-based Counseling Programme: A Pilot Project to Address Depression and Improve Positive Mental Health Among Students in Australia


Depression is one of the most prevalent public health problems in the world. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (2004) estimate indicates that depression accounts for about 7% of all poor health and premature deaths in Europe. The World Health Organization (2012) report indicates that depression is the world’s leading cause of disability. The burdens caused by depression are many and include loss of quality for people with the diseases and their families, increased risk of unemployment, and loss of productivity (O’Grady et al., 2010). Additionally, depression can result in patients withdrawing from family and social life, work and even develop suicidal tendencies. Ludermir et al. (2010) states that depression is caused by many factors that include violence towards the victim, experience of discrimination (Belle & Doucet, 2003) and human rights abuses among other factors. Although depression is a health problem that affects everyone in the society with its onset having been as early as during childhood, the WHO (n.d) report shows that unipolar depression is common among women than men and this suggests that gender plays a role in depression. Considering that depression impacts negatively on the mental health and the quality of life of the patients, it is important that proper health promotion intervention measures be put in place to help the affected and their families overcome depressive symptoms and promote positive mental health for the patients. This paper will examine the prevalence of depression among young girls and offer school-based counseling intervention to address depression and promote positive mental wellbeing of the patients. The study will use Psychodynamic theory to explain the intervention proposed.

School-based Counseling Intervention

Depression is a major health problem that affects millions of people in the society. Women are among the most affected by depression as statistics from the WHO (2012) indicates that unipolar depression is as twice higher among women as men. This suggests that women and girls are more at risk of depression compared to their male counterparts. There are many reasons cited for the high prevalence of depression among women than men. Domestic violence ranks among the leading causes of depression among women. Pico-Alfonso et al. (2006) note that a significant number of women live in abusing relationships and this exposes them to high risk of depression. Nonetheless, studies also indicate that the onset of depression can be as early as when a person is a child. For instance, research shows that many young people in schools have depression (Department of Health, 2004). In particular, Fischer (2014) indicates that more than four million kids and adolescents have mental health disorder such as depression. Ferrari et al. (2013) report that suicide is the third leading cause of mortality among youths between the ages of 15 to 24 with the majority of the children who commit suicide having mental health problems such as depression (Fischer, 2014). These statistics suggests that depression can set in early in life and become severe later in adulthood if not addressed early on in life.

Therefore, the best health promotion intervention for depression is to target young people by equipping them with the skills to overcome depression that might set in later in their lives because depression can develop at any time in life. Because many young people avoid seeking help for mental health problems due to fear of stigma (Monteith & Pettit, 2011), offering education to the young people, especially girls on how to overcome depressive symptoms is critical in promoting positive mental wellbeing. For this reason, a school-based counseling intervention has been proposed.

School-based counseling program has been proposed based on the existing evidences that show that counseling is an effective intervention method for mental disorders. One such study is that conducted by Bower et al. (2003) found that counseling had a positive impact when added to normal treatment methods in controlling depressive symptoms and improving quality of life. Similar finding was reported by Taylor et al. (2007) that found that counseling help minimize the progression of mental health problems. Therefore, based on these evidences, the proposed school-based counseling, will involve the creation of a department of counseling in the school where students young boys and girls will be encouraged to seek counseling on how to manage and overcome depressive symptoms should they develop this mental health disorder. The counseling services will be offered by trained mental health workers, local youth workers, and teachers. The girls who attend the counseling sessions will be educated on what depression entails, risk factors and strategies that they need to adopt to overcome their mental state (Ustun et al., 2004). This will also involve the adoption of behavioral therapy on the young girls considering that depression is also behavioral in nature and requires change of behavior (Bellack, 2004). To ensure the effectiveness of school-based counseling intervention, counselors will be encouraged to ensure that they develop positive relationship with the students and be more open in their approach as this would make the students with depression more willing to share their health situations with the counselors so that the right intervention measures can be used to help the young girls overcome depressive symptoms and to live quality life. The program will be funded by the Ministry of Health, the Departmental of Mental Health with assistance from the non-governmental organizations who will be requested to come in and support this noble health promotion program.

Intervention Type

The school-based counseling program will be a secondary intervention strategy. Studies show that more than four million school-going children already suffer from mental health problems, such as depression. Therefore, because many children and adolescents already suffer from depression that impact negatively on their quality of life, this school-based counseling will be a secondary intervention as it seeks to address an existing problem in the society (Fava, 2003). The counseling services will target mainly girls who are experiencing depression by providing them with a dependable and a confidential environment where they can be free to share their health problems and be listened to with empathy. The counseling program will target girls from as young as 6 years old to 18 years by listening to them and helping them overcome the negative thoughts and depressive symptoms so that they can regain stable mental health and live a normal life. This intervention program has been found suitable because evidences suggests that, a lack of intervention on depression early on in life can result in the progression of depression to a level where patients begin to develop suicidal thoughts.

Theoretical Underpinning: Psychodynamic Theory

The effectiveness of school-based counseling as an intervention for depression is informed by Psychodynamic Theory proposed by Sigmund Freud. Psychodynamic theory holds that the actions of an individual are determined largely by life experiences (Jacobs, 2017). In other words, the theory is based on the assumption that the behaviors of individuals is influenced by their past life experience and that no behavior is accidental. In his study of how behavior is formed, Sigmund noted that there were certain unconscious forces that were responsible for behavior formation (Higdon, 2011). These include the id, the ego and the superego. Sigmund also proposed a useful technique for shaping behaviors, which can be applied in counseling which include free association that involves talking about issues without censoring; dream analysis which involves understanding the dreams for critical message about the unconscious and finally transference, which involves redirecting feelings about certain individuals in a person’s life (Higdon, 2011).

Psychodynamic theory will be useful in offering education and counseling services to patients with depression because by applying this theory, the counselors will emphasize more on the past relationships of the young girls who attend the counseling sessions with more focus being put on the traumatic childhood experiences to see its influence on the girls’ current life. Brining these issues into the surface is important such knowledge will help the counselor in designing the right counseling approach for each individual girl, thus promoting treatment and healing (Jacobs, 2017). Applying psychodynamic theory, therefore, will enable the counselors to understand the past traumatic life experiences of the students who seek counseling services and their role in the development of depression symptoms and this will facilitate the creation of the right message that will result in a change in behavior, and in particular control the symptoms of depression.


Depression is a highly prevalent mental disorder. Although depression affects the general population, women are more affected by unipolar depression compared to their male counterparts. As such, it is important that appropriate health promotion intervention be used to address this health problem among women in the society. School-based counseling intervention has been proposed for use in addressing depression with the program targeting girls experiencing the onset of depression to equip them with the skills of how to overcome depression at young age and later in life. The program will be funded by the Ministry of Health, Department of Mental Health with the assistance of NGOs. Being a secondary intervention strategy, the effectiveness of this approach has been informed by psychodynamic theory.


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