Finding your child’s “spark” and the building blocks of wellbeing were key messages at Thursday night’s mental health forum.
A packed auditorium at Club Sapphire heard from renowned parenting and adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg at the forum hosted by Lumen Christi Catholic College.
The forum focused on youth mental health and how parents and community members need to be active participants in building the resilience of children.
It was the latest in a string of mental health initiatives for the Bega Valley, which has seen numerous mental health and drug-related incidents over the past 12-18 months.
A Headspace service for the region, last year’s mental health summit (also organised by Lumen), former NRL player and boxer Joe Williams’ visit and school talks, a youth music festival in Eden – these are just a handful of the approaches the Bega Valley has organised, each with the intention of engaging the entire community in building up the mental health of our young people.
As Dr Carr-Gregg said on Thursday night, the “missing link” in current awareness programs is a focus on community.
“As the saying goes… ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child’,” Lumen principal Steve Centra said.
“We, the members of that village, need to put our heads together to see what we can do to help our kids enjoy life and to reach their vast potential. Anything less is not good enough.
“One death by suicide is one too many.”
Find your spark
Dr Carr-Gregg was an informative and engaging speaker, filling up the first hour of the night with anecdotes, research findings and helpful tools we can all use to help each other and our children as they negotiate an increasingly stressful world.
He shared research that showed one in seven primary school children have a mental health issue, a startling number that increases to one in four in high school – Years 7-9 the main concerns.
Of the key issues found by Mission Australia’s survey of 22,000 15-19-year-olds, number one was coping with stress, followed by school problems, body image and depression.
Dr Carr-Gregg said that teenagers worried about stress and their ability to cope should be a clarion call to the community.
“You can’t outsource this to educators. Ask yourselves what do we have to do as a community” he said.
As for building blocks to wellbeing, number one is sleep – 10 hours a day for primary school children, nine for high school. Then an hour of exercise a day, nutritious diet including breakfast every day, positive “self talk” and mindfulness meditation.
And the unequivocal message is find your kids spark and be an active participant in helping them find it.
“Find their spark, the thing that gets them up in the morning, that they feel passionate about,” Dr Carr-Gregg said.
“Sport, art, music, dance drama, Destiny 2, Minecraft – I don’t really care what it is, but I need all of the kids to have it. Because the ones that have a spark, get interested, take risks, develop their personality, find out who they are.”
Lumen principal Steve Centra said he was amazed by the turnout to Thursday night’s event.
He said Dr Michael Carr-Gregg was “extremely engaging”, getting his information across in a plain comprehensible way – “just good common sense”.
“The best thing about it is there was a cross section of the community which was fantastic,” Mr Centra said.
“This wasn’t just a Lumen thing, it was for the whole community. There were other different schools there, medical professionals, police, and kids too.”
Mr Centra said while getting that many people in the room to listen, the true success of the night would be in where it goes from here – practical applications of those ideas and taking action right across the community.
He said while the many sectors of the community represented on the night are already doing great things for youth mental health in the Bega Valley, getting them all together and having the forum work as a launching pad for a community action plan would be how success would be judged.