The Life in Mind team connect Australian suicide prevention services and programs to each other and the community, and this week are excited to highlight a program building kids’ confidence through creative expression - Cool Connections in Schools.
Cool Connections in Schools is an arts-based resilience-building program, developed by Iris Foundation, to support children in years five and six who have been identified as needing help with social aspects of school life.
Over eight weekly sessions during school hours, participants explore individual strengths and attributes, the concepts of safe places and safe people, the value of compliments, and the importance of gratitude and problem solving.
Each topic is worked on as a group, helping foster communication and friendships. Short weekly reflection sessions and end-of-program celebrations add to the cohesiveness of the group.
The program is delivered at no cost to participating schools or parents, with costs covered by sponsorship and donations obtained by Iris Foundation.
Iris Foundation Co-Founder Dawn Hooper explained that her team had heard from local schools that problems associated with adolescence, such as low self-esteem and self-confidence, anxiety, depression and social isolation, were affecting primary school children in increasing numbers. They saw an opportunity to provide some support, and in 2016 Cool Connections was successfully piloted in two Central Coast schools.
The program’s emphasis on creative expression – including painting, drawing and journaling – reflects current mental health research on best ways to foster resilience in young people, as well as teaching them to develop a sense of belonging and cope with difficult feelings.
In 2018, 21 Cool Connections programs were delivered to 210 students in Central Coast primary schools. Positive outcomes are reported, with participants noted to be more confident, more willing to share, respect differences and manage emotions. In some cases, previously anxious and isolated children emerge from the program with new allies.
In February 2019, Cool Connections in School qualified as a ‘Promising Emerging Program’ on the Suicide Prevention Hub, a listing of best-practice programs and services overseen by Suicide Prevention Australia.
For more information, including how to get in touch, please visit: Cool Connections in Schools.