Turning teenage lives around

Lauren* was so severely bullied she suffered extreme anxiety and was hospitalised in October last year. She didn’t feel she could go back to school, she felt trapped, lost and suicidal.

The Glenbrook Centre students Lauren and Thomas have benefitted greatly from the support of school staff, including head teacher Sonya Inostroza and teachers' aide Alison Vidler.

The Glenbrook Centre students Lauren and Thomas have benefitted greatly from the support of school staff, including head teacher Sonya Inostroza and teachers' aide Alison Vidler.

A counsellor suggested she enrol at the newly opened The Glenbrook Centre and after much persuasion she agreed, starting in March at the school for students with internalising disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Thanks to the support of the school, life is looking a lot brighter.

“I’ve never been happier now. I feel I can do it again ... I’m slowly starting to believe in myself again,” the 16-year-old said.

Lauren said she now has more good days than bad, can see a way forward, and would like to pursue a career in nursing into the future.

Last year that would have seemed impossible.

The Glenbrook Centre, which opened late last year at the old Glenbrook Infants School site, is turning the lives of high school students around.

The centre exclusively supports high school students diagnosed with internalising disorders such as anxiety and depression, and is the first of its kind in Western Sydney.

The school has 18 students on its books, the majority year 11 students.

The students have often “slipped through the cracks” and have been unable to attend school due to the severity of their condition.

Head teacher Sonya Inostroza said the school was all about helping students to find their voice again and getting them back on track.

“These kids feel supported and safe here. We start to see them talking, laughing and seeing their personalities coming back again. They just needed a safe place,” Mrs Inostroza said.

As students have often fallen behind in school work, catching up and setting work plans is a priority.

The students are also supported by counsellors, and the centre operates using positive behaviour for learning and positive psychology principles, in conjunction with Mind Matters, an organisation which helps schools support young people to learn and develop their skills emotionally, socially and academically. The centre also operates in conjunction with Springwood High School, Sydney Distance Education High School and will next term work with the Mountains Youth Services Team in running group programs.

This term the centre will start the student-driven weekly program ‘what hurts and what helps’.

The program looks at the causes of depression and anxiety and what can be done to help these disorders.

The Glenbrook Centre is open to all high school students from Parramatta to Mt Victoria.

* surname witheld

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