Victorian Institute of Sport

Paralympian raises much needed awareness about mental health

Monday, 10 September 2018

Victorian Institute of Sport athlete, Dr Hannah Macdougall, made a positive influence on the students at Pearcedale Primary School last week. The dual Paralympian spoke to the students about mental health and wellbeing. With a PhD in Athlete Well-Being Hannah is a passionate expert in this field and an advocate for inclusion.

Demonstrating the VIS motto of ‘Success in Sport and Life’ Hannah has worked as a Personal Excellence Adviser at the VIS while piling impressive sporting achievements on top of each other.

Making a successful transition into Para Road Cycling from Swimming, Hannah wrote history at the 2017 Cycling Australia National Championships when she became the first female amputee to compete in the ‘able bodied’ Women’s Time Trial.

2018 has been another fruitful year for Hannah, taking home two silver medals at the UCI Para Road World Championships in Italy. Following this accomplishment with a gold medal in the Time Trial at the UCI Para Road World Cup in Canada only a couple of weeks later. She is determined to make it to a third Paralympic Games at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Hannah was able to inspire the Pearcedale Primary School students to feel confident and believe in themselves, just as she was inspired by her own coach and mentor when she was growing up. Sport helped Hannah gain confidence, and being born without her right foot and fibula she has made the most out of her impairment.

 “It is awesome to start seeing a shift in the recognition and importance of mental health. The students at Pearcedale Primary School were full of enthusiasm, curiosity, and full of great ideas how they can train their brain muscle.

“We talked about the importance of social connections, asking ‘RUOK’, and what we are grateful for.

“We also did some experiential mindfulness activities and had fun guessing what animal my ‘missing bit of leg’ looks like. I was glad that nobody said it looked like a hippopotamus!”

850 students participated in Pearcedale Primary School’s re-launch of their Kids Matter Day and Hannah spoke to a large group of students in the middle of the day. The students will also participate in classroom activities and talks about mental wellbeing. The event culminated in a Colour Explosion Run with the whole school in the afternoon.

Local Hastings Member for Parliament, Neale Burgess was present throughout the day who is a large supporter of the local school community and in promoting a positive mental health.

KidsMatter for Primary Schools is a mental health and wellbeing framework created by the Australian Government. The initiative provides methods, tools and support to help schools across Australia make a positive difference to their students.

The visits to Government schools are free of charge and part of the VIS Community Program funded by School Sport Victoria.

KidsMatter is a government initiative and you can read more about it here.

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