Dungog High School staff and students does 78,565 push ups to support youth mental health services

Cooper Edwards, Aaron Fisher, Jack Boyton, Ryan Vella, Alec Grainger and Aaron Whelan.
Cooper Edwards, Aaron Fisher, Jack Boyton, Ryan Vella, Alec Grainger and Aaron Whelan.

DUNGOG High has received national recognition for raising $20,000 for youth mental health services through an innovative competition.

The school entered itself as a community of 11 teams in the Push for Better Foundation's annual Push Up Challenge, which asks each participant to do 3318 pushups in June, to represent the number of lives lost to suicide in Australia in 2019.

Participants track their progress online and receive daily tips about mental health.

School learning support officer (SLSO) Katie Darmawan said Dungog High had 45 people in 11 teams complete 78,565 pushups from June 1 to 25 and raise $20,000 for headspace Maitland, the most collected by any educational organisation in the country.

"We have 600 students and we beat The King's School in Sydney which has 2100 students - that's the entire population of Dungog," she said.

The school team that raised the most was Yeah The Boys, with $16,205.

It comprised students Aaron Whelan, Aaron Fisher, Ryan Vella, Cooper Edwards, Jack Boyton, Alec Grainger, Jacob Rooke, principal Stephen Harper and SLSOs Ms Darmawan and Ian Parsons.

"In 2019 we lost someone close to us all - Aaron Whelan's older brother Andy - by suicide and it had a massive effect on our school and the community," Ms Darmawan said.

"We're now 19 or 20 months down the track and we wanted to do something."

The boys said they felt good after the month and were proud of their involvement.

"Mental health is a really big thing and it's not really talked about in this area," Aaron Whelan said.

Cooper said people in rural areas didn't always get the support they needed.

Ryan said he wanted to support his mate and "get it out there how many people this affects".

Aaron Fisher said it was important all students "know they can talk about it".

In terms of tips, Aaron Whelan said he would be "texting mates more, checking in on them and making sure they're alright", while the other boys pointed to mindful breathing, getting outside, staying socially active, staying off phones and social media and having a good diet and sleep.

Ms Darmawan said the boys had helped break stigma at the school around discussing mental health and visiting the learning and support area.

To help raise funds, the school held a barbecue and a raffle with donations from Hunter businesses.

This story Dungog High School does 78,565 push ups to support youth mental health first appeared on The Maitland Mercury.