COMMENT: Youth mental health an ongoing conversation the community has to have

Lumen Christi Catholic College principal Steve Centra and psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg.

Lumen Christi Catholic College principal Steve Centra and psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg.

Thursday night’s forum with adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg wasn’t going to be all answers for everybody, but what it did, it did well.

Comments from those in the audience were along the lines of it being “practical common sense” information, “not sugar coated” and appropriate for the wide range of ages and agencies in the room.

It was organised and hosted by Lumen Christi Catholic College, but designed to include the entire community in a conversation we desperately have to have.

It was the latest in a string of mental health initiatives for the Bega Valley, where the community has been reeling after a number of recent youth suicides.

A Headspace service, last year’s mental health summit (also organised by Lumen), former NRL player and boxer Joe Williams’ visit and school talks, the weekend’s youth music festival in Eden – these are just a handful of the approaches groups in the Bega Valley have 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.

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.

Lumen principal Steve Centra 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.

If you or someone you know is in need of support, free confidential help is always available:

Lifeline 131 114; beyondblue 1300 224 636; Kids Help Line 1800 551 800

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