Words Grace Williams
Image Graziano Di Martino
Growing up means a lot of things for different people. For some, it can mean moving out of home or learning how to drive; for others, simply figuring out which course to enrol in at university.
These changes in our world can be positive or negative. An awareness of the negative changes can at once be a blessing and a curse.
A blessing because as young people, our bodies and minds have developed to reach a point of understanding of the world around us. A curse because this awareness can cause us to be overwhelmed by the difficulties of life. Feeling overwhelmed isn’t a new phenomenon. Most people go through it at some point, and people who experience these feelings can still come out unscathed.
Above, members of Y.A.S. at Light up the Lane 2017: Miranda Bennett, Grace Williams, Ruby Bartle, Eva Schroter, Amy Dear and Edward Williams.
During National Youth Week last April, the City of Hobart’s Youth Advisory Squad (YAS), set up a stall at the Light up the Lane arts festival. In front of our stall, we placed surveys to ask young people what they felt was the most important issue facing them. Two-hundred people completed our survey. From our findings, we discovered that mental health was the biggest concern facing young Tasmanians. This may seem shocking, but according to the 2016 Australian Youth Development Index, Tasmania has the highest youth suicide rate in Australia. Joanne Simon- Davies’ 2011 Parliament of Australia report on suicide ranked it as the tenth leading cause of death in males.
Talking to community health educator Shelagh Curtain from Headspace, I discovered that Headspace Hobart provided approximately 4000 occasions of care to young people aged 12 to 25 years in the last 15/16 financial year. In the first nine months of this 16/17 financial year, Headspace Hobart has already provided 3425 occasions of care, Shelagh said. Shelagh also advised that in 2016, due to this shortage of services providers, the centre commenced the tele-health service in partnership with Headspace National
Office, to enable young people to access a psychiatrist where suitable on a monthly basis. This is undertaken with the support of a youth engagement worker assisting the young person and their family, where appropriate, to engage with a headspace psychiatrist via Skype. Mental Health Carers Tasmania former
CEO Wendy Groot, expressed concerns to the ABC about the shortage of mental health professionals in the state. Wendy told the ABC’s Richard Baines (Mental health groups concerned at lack of psychiatrists, psychologists in Tasmania, 18 October 2014) that there is a shortage of psychiatrists in Tasmania. Private psychiatrists are often priced expensively regardless of the income of young Tasmanians. As a young person in Tasmania, I feel the tele-health service is an innovative but quasi-solution to the problem of young people with mental health issues, who can’t access psychiatrists in their own state. The increasingly demand for mental health services should be meet with long term solutions that increase supply to members of our community.
In my experience, young people with dreams of change are sometimes branded as idealists who will learn how difficult it is to change things when they experience the bureaucratic regime of life. I feel this sort of tirade is often used as an insult against young people. I don’t believe the stereotype of idealistic is insulting.
In a dynamic world filled with constant change, all we can really hold on to is our ideals.
Our ideals of justice, truth and kindness are the only constants in our lives that we can exercise full control of. We cannot ensure that the world responds to our ideals, but we can maintain them and use them as a tool for positive social change.
Positive social change is what the City of Hobart’s Youth Advisory Squad is all about. The recently established group is intending assist to try to alleviate the issues of mental illness and isolation faced by our young people. By instigating community building activities for young people in the Youth Arts and
Recreation Centre and beyond, we hope to invite young people to share stories from their everyday lives to combat feelings of isolation.
Having art therapy sessions can offer a space for young people to be creative and connect with one another. YAS is discovering innovative ways to serve young people from all walks of life.
I believe that we can cause small but relevant change in the lives of young people. To aid us in our service, we have each other and our ideals of kindness and community building.