Mental Illness Education ACT (MIEACT) is a community organisation that provides a range of mental health education programs to young people in schools across the ACT. MIEACT promotes the personal stories of volunteers with lived experiences of mental illness to educate the community, reduce stigma and discrimination, increase knowledge and awareness, and encourage positive health choices.
For their Any Body’s Cool program, MIEACT works with up to 3 local schools each term to deliver a body image health promotion program to young women in Years 7 and 8. It also includes capacity building of teachers to create body image friendly environments, focusing on individual practice and whole of school approaches.
The program is delivered through a series of workshops and includes a 1 hour workshop with school staff, a 2 hour workshop with young women, follow up with the coordinating teacher and provision of resources for teachers and the school.
‘Schools and key teachers who embrace our program and understand the significance of this subject benefit most from our engagement. They use the program as a conversation starter in their school and many of these schools rebook the program year to year.’
Partnering with schools for this program allows MIEACT to strengthen the message of body positivity amongst young women, while also engaging teachers as advocates for positive body image.
The workshops also provide a platform for schools to engage in further discussion with students. For example, some schools have gone on to explore the impact of pornography on body image. Some schools have also established mechanisms within the school for feedback on how the school could be more body image friendly.
MIEACT identify that enthusiastic teachers help to make this partnership possible and highlight the importance of having a key staff member or ‘champion’ in each school to help facilitate their engagement. Also, the program is fully funded by ACT Health, so there is no cost to schools.