Penola student drives mental health initiative

Brooke Hutchesson  TBW Newsgroup
MAKEOVER: Penola High School Year 12 student Brooke Hutchesson has helped revamp the school's girls' toilets and create a sanctuary for students.

Brooke Hutchesson TBW Newsgroup
MAKEOVER: Penola High School Year 12 student Brooke Hutchesson has helped revamp the school’s girls’ toilets and create a sanctuary for students.

PENOLA High School has put itself at the forefront of mental health awareness over the school holidays with a new installation in the girls’ toilets.

As part of her health investigation project, Year 12 student Brooke Hutchesson investigated creating a safe space for female students to go to when feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

Brooke decided the bathroom would be the perfect area in the school to undertake her project.

As a member of the student representative council (SRC), Brooke knew improving the toilets was a priority for the school and believed her idea would be the perfect solution.

“I took the idea to the SRC and told them I wanted to make the toilets more of a sanctuary for the students,” she said.

“We all thought it was a good idea so we just kind of went from there.”

Brooke set her plan into motion and surveyed students on what they would best like to see in the bathrooms.

Painted toilet doors, sanitary supplies, mental health pamphlets and new mirrors were at the top of the list for students, providing a starting point for the project.

“We decided to put all of those elements together to create the new space,” Brooke said.

“This meant picking out inspiring quotes to paint on the doors, purchasing the new mirrors and figuring out how to keep the bathroom stocked with sanitary items.”

Brooke presented her idea to Penola IGA Fresh which jumped on board to supply sanitary items, deodorant, hair accessories and other necessities for the bathroom.

Along with other students, Brooke then spent her school holidays decorating the toilets in time for Term 3.

“When students first came back to school, everyone was sort of rushing to the toilets to see what had happened because there was a rumour we were redoing them,” she said.

“I have had people come up to me saying they felt upset at school and they went into the toilets and just felt happy because it was colourful.

“They had posters to read the quotes and the doors to read.

“If you are feeling sad, you can read that and hopefully feel a bit better.”

Although students have only been back at school for just over a week, Brooke said it was a big talking point around the grounds with plans to further improve the boys toilets as well.

“I guess boys do not need as much stuff in the toilets as girls, but I am sure they get times when they need somewhere to go and gather their thoughts,” she said.

“Hopefully we will be able to do something nice in their toilets as well soon, but for now I think everyone is really happy with how the girls’ toilets have turned out.”