With the alarming knowledge that one in four young Australians aged 16-24 experience at least one mental disorder (AIHW 2011) and that they are more likely to die by their own hands than be killed in a road accident, it is no surprise that Australian youth are crying out for support and information about mental health. A recent report has recommended that the New South Wales government ensure that more resources are put in place to raise awareness of how young people can access mental health services and for schools in NSW to develop and implement a mental health policy.
The What’s Up West? 2013 Project was devised to get young people across Western Sydney talking to each other to discuss what they can do to make their communities better and ultimately empower young people with the skills and knowledge to make real and lasting changes. The project was run and funded by the Western Sydney Project and Youth Action with the objective of giving young people a chance to have their say about the positive changes they want to see in their community. Their findings from the project are a result of the contributions from more than 170 young people from across 14 local areas in Western Sydney and have been published in their What’s Up West? DIY Reality report. The report highlights 21 recommendations for government and other public agencies on seven different topics, including culture, sexuality and mental health.
The report further outlines what individuals can do to change the stigma attached to mental health, including speaking openly about mental health and being aware of the mental health of people around you. What seems most encouraging is that young people are aware of the necessity to look after personal mental health and to utilise a range of strategies to relieve stress, including exercise and meditation.
Encouraging young people in our care to be more mindful of their emotions and to talk openly about mental health issues that they have encountered is by no means an easy task due to the stigma that it attached to the issue, not to mention the fact that many people feel unqualified to discuss such sensitive subjects. However, What’s Up West? has illuminated the fact that maybe it’s time for individuals, communities and governments to start opening their own discussions about mental health and to start finding ways to help those who need and want it most: our youth.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Visit http://www.youthaction.org.au to download the latest What’s Up West DIY Reality report.