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Connect Health & Community is looking to tackle the youth mental health crisis by recruiting high school students to be trained as mental health champions in an effort to stem the worrying statistics.
The community health organisation is looking to appoint 25 youth mental health champions to work in their communities to increase understanding among peers and reduce the stigma of mental health issues, while providing information on how and where to get help.
CEO Amanda Murphy said one in four Australians aged 16-24 will experience mental illness, making it the number one health issue for young Australians.
“This project aims to recruit young people in our community to be the driving force for change by starting conversations about mental health. We acknowledge these conversations can be difficult, but also know how important these conversations are,” she said.
“Mental health is the number one health issue for young people and as a community we need to support our youth to openly talk about their issues and experiences. This is an incredible opportunity for young people wanting to make a positive mark in their community to gain the training and support to make a real difference in the lives of those around them,” she said.
Ms Murphy said an increase in mental health issues has resulted in suicide becoming the leading cause of preventable death among people aged 15-25 in Australia. Statistics show females are at greater risk of suffering mental health issues, with higher rates of anxiety and affective disorders across the 16-24 year old population, though this may not be accurate as men are less likely to seek help and die more often by suicide.
“We hope to recruit young people to engage with peers at their schools, sporting clubs or other community settings and share critical information about where, how and why it is important to access mental health services and support,” she said.
She said factors contributing to the poor mental health of young women include lower self-esteem and anxiety over body-image, while males aged 16-24 are more likely to suffer substance use disorder and are three times more likely to die by suicide than Australian females.
“Research shows the vulnerability of young men to suicide by linking the role of traditional masculinity and other associated behaviours. In Australia, young males have the lowest rate of help-seeking behaviour when compared to any other demographic,” she said.
“Young people can play a positive role to help break down the stigma related to mental ill-health and help those in their community who experience or live with a mental illness to access the understanding and support they need,” Ms Murphy said.
The Youth Mental Health Champion program will recruit students in years 10, 11 or 12 in 2020 to receive mental health first aid training and attend monthly meetings for support in planning and delivering mental health talks in the community. The young champions will take a trusted adult on the journey with them as their sponsor for the program.
The program will be deployed during 2020 with partners, Bayside and Glen Eira City Councils and Headspace Elsternwick, Bayside Glen Eira and Kingston Local Learning and Employment Network. Nominations for youth champions and their sponsors close on 10 November, 2019.
For more information about the about the nomination, commitment, responsibilities, eligibility, recruitment and training for the program, visit the Connect Health & Community website at
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