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We have a huge opportunity to change some of the stats re. youth mental health and suicide

January 28, 2020 Young People

The Y has an enormous footprint across Australia, and daily interactions with thousands of young people. Our frontline staff see, hear and deal with young people on a daily basis in before and after school hour care programs, gyms, pools, sports activities, youth services and schools. Our people are ideally placed to have life-saving and changing interactions with young people in their communities. We’re mental well-being optimisers!

“We have a huge opportunity to change some of the stats re. youth mental health and suicide,” says Jeanette Horsley, Manager of Peninsula Youth Services, motivating her to offer as many courses as she can fit into her busy calendar.

The Youth Mental Health First Aid Training, by Mental Health First Aid Australia, runs over two days and equips participants with hands-on knowledge about when and how to instigate a Mental Health First Aid Action Plan for young person showing signs of distress, or whose behavior has noticeably changed.

“A lot of young people don’t know what it feels like to feel really good.”

“That was just one statement that took my breath away in a two-day Youth Mental First Aid Training Course I attended last week, facilitated by Jeanette, a human I have long admired for her driving passion and commitment to help more young people feel not just good but great about themselves,” said Di McDonald, Executive Manager Brand & Communications.

“Jeanette’s day job is as Manager of Peninsula Youth Services and Frankston Skate Park, in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, part of the Y family, which she partly helps fund by regularly facilitating Youth Mental First Aid Training, for YMCA Victoria’s 6,000-strong employee and volunteer force.

“She’s funny, engaging, wise, evidence-informed, memorable, and always open to learning. In short, the perfect trainer.

“In the past few years, she’s trained “hundreds of staff and volunteers” in how to be first responders for emerging and crisis youth mental health issues. If anyone has helped to start more conversations about mental health and well-being in the Y than Jeanette – I’d be surprised.

“The course certainly had a big impact on me personally.  With two teenagers in my life, I witness the challenges adolescence brings in its myriad forms to my two, who have completely individual personalities, temperaments and their own unique issues.

“I’m aware that young people are living in a time of exponential change and challenges, with technology at their fingertips that gives them access to ideas, temptations and information that, developmentally, they’re simply not ready for.

“The biggest take-home for me personally was how important it is to be direct and clear with a young person if you suspect they’re at risk of suicide or self-harming. i.e. Are you thinking of killing yourself? Are you having thoughts of suicide? Have you made a plan?

“Further, don’t avoid any tough conversations with young people in your life about drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, etc. Chances are they already know more than you do from the internet and social media – but make sure you have the real facts and can guide them towards information and professional support when required,” Di added.
“It’s so important to have honest, open real conversations with your kids,” says Jeannette, showing us some websites encouraging eating disorders that are frankly, shocking, but that many young people know all about. It’s not often that you get to do training that is both relevant to your workplace, but also to your life outside of work. If you ever get a chance to do this training – don’t hesitate. We need more people comfortable with starting conversations and dispelling myths about mental health, being first line responders for young people when needed, and being advocates for young people. Yes it can be hard to carve two days out of your diary to complete the training. But once there, trust me, you won’t regret it. And like me, you won’t forget it.
– Dianne McDonald, Executive Manager, Brand, Engagement & Communications

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