Not patients but STUDENTS

The education program at Jacaranda Place (Queensland’s Adolescent Extended Treatment Centre), like the Barrett School at Wacol before it, has so many significant benefits. But the value that can be connected to the challenges that so many young people face – not only those with severe and complex mental health issues – centres on how those between 13 and 25 see themselves.

To have a school onsite with permanent classrooms and staff means that for large portions of each weekday, young people who might otherwise feel like ‘patients’ can identify as ‘STUDENTS’. STUDENTS like their siblings and their peers. Not stuck at home. Not someone with an illness that some services haven’t understood. Students. With a team of teachers. And regular activities.
That can make a HUGE difference.

Especially in a world where mental health issues can still be viewed very differently to physical health issues. And experiencing a stay in a healthcare facility will be yet another challenge to deal with in a life that’s already more than difficult.

So being a ‘student’ can be a relief.  It can take the pressure away from being a person with severe health problems that require treatment. It can give a young person purpose while restoring part of their identity that has been lost during a period of disengagement from learning due to their health issues. And it can help them to feel that they’re part of a group and not isolated and alone.

And there’s another significant aspect to being a student in a service staffed by teaching professionals with a real understanding of severe youth mental health issues and the impacts of those. And that’s to do not with how the young people see themselves but how they feel because of the ways that others have seen them. And responded to them.

Teenagers. Adolescents. Youth. Whatever label is applied if it’s by someone of a different generation, it too often seems that the assignment of being at that particular stage of life comes with assumptions. And sometimes unfair judgements. That a person might be moody. Or selfish. Or irresponsible. Or even defiant.

Certainly as someone grows from ‘child’ to ‘adult’, the stage where each of us has been neither can be a turbulent one. Fraught with change and strong emotion. Dealing with physical changes and all the implications of those. Where we can find ourselves given responsibilities that are tedious compared with a more carefree childhood … but not allowed independence in the areas it can feel most important. Testing boundaries. Working out who you really are and will be through your life. The turmoil of all that should make the fact that so many young people remain civil quite surprising. Instead however, those of us who have been through it ourselves can have selective memory and instead of empathy with those going through that period of life, some adults can even throw out the kinds of slurs that feel unjust to those trying to just get through the days:

“Attention-seeking” “Troublemaker” “Drama Queen”

And sometimes those labels have come from professionals from whom help has been sought for severe, even life-threatening, mental health issues. So of course that can then make any environment that puts the focus on those issues a place that evokes mistrust. Resistance. And of course anxiety.

So to have reached somewhere that they’re finally understood by not just healthcare professionals but teachers is an important start for young people who have been dealing with a number of serious and undeserved challenges. And to have that understanding mean that at their own pace, they are supported to attend classes and work on projects while others like them are doing the same can, to some degree, liberate them from an aspect of their mental burden. At least for a while. And that can be significant after all that they’ve been through.

Jacaranda Place has a team of educators with experience working with children and young people for whom health issues have become a barrier to learning. And those teachers place fundamental importance on respecting each of their students. So much so that it is the young person who will determine their goals while they are at the AETC. With a philosophy that every attendee will leave having achieved something, it’s clear that a positive approach with a clear understanding of individuality underscores the Jacaranda Place education program. So by listening, hearing and responding to the unique needs of each young person while also viewing them as part of an affirming collective group is the balance that we all probably sought as we lurched our way through that turbulent stage of life.

We know that understanding and enthusiastic teachers can make a considerable impact on the lives of their students. But if those teachers are empowering young people who have felt overlooked, minimised, even worthless … then a young life can suddenly take a productive path that was previously not even on the map.

So we pay tribute to the education team at Jacaranda Place AETC as they model an attitude that many of us could learn from WHILE they provide invaluable support in facilitating the achievement of appropriate goals by young people simultaneously dealing with intensive health treatment. Queensland is lucky to have dedicated professionals as a key element of the AETC multidisciplinary team who are also willing to share what they learn with their colleagues throughout the state.

You can read more about the Jacaranda Place education program here and about the role of AETC schools more generally here.


To read our two previous posts on our month-long focus on education, go to:

Education for Young People with Severe Mental Health Issues (5 Oct)

And the GOOD NEWS is … (9 Oct)

 

And the GOOD NEWS is …

The bad news won’t be news to you. Clearly a global pandemic is going to seriously impact mental health. And young people will bear the burden of the lack of social interaction and opportunities to explore their growing independence.
But THE GOOD NEWS is something that many people aren’t aware of. That there’s a really effective education program operating in Queensland to re-engage young people who have severe mental health issues with learning. And with life. Because the right approach to education is the foundation for so many positive developments.

For the last 6 years, the Barrett Adolescent Special School at Tennyson in Brisbane has been supporting young people in the community with severe mental health issues who had lost hope of finding a education option that could meet their needs. Until the relocation of the school that had been onsite with the treatment centre at Wacol. And with teachers with expertise in engaging students with learning that enables and empowers, lives are being changed for the better.

Until the Barrett School was available to students beyond the inpatient cohort at the Wacol centre, there were (and still are) young people all through our communities who had (and have) lost touch with education. Modified attendance at their regular school, a flexi-school, Distance Ed. … can all fail to understand the needs of those with severe and complex mental health issues. But when Guidance Officers could begin referring students to the Barrett School, hope was finally alive in those young people and their families in the Brisbane area. (Here’s the federal MP for Moreton giving an insight into how it can start.) 

It’s not a short journey. From extended isolation to the rewards of a bespoke education. Even when there are knowledgeable experts supporting young people in an appropriate environment. But with individualised programs that are continually modified and evolving, there are so many ways that young people will develop and learn as they take each step. The whole school team at Barrett devises, reviews and adapts the learning plans of each student with ongoing liaison with base school guidance officers, family members/carers, clinical care providers and MOST IMPORTANTLY, the young person themselves. So that experiences that facilitate their learning also align with their interests and their capabilities, providing opportunities for success and progress. Social and personal growth happen in nurturing environments as knowledge and skills are acquired. And new pathways then begin to open up. The Barrett School’s case management allows young people to explore a range of ways to acquire abilities and information, to set goals and achieve outcomes – from TAFE/ vocational training to academic pursuits to work experience and more. All with the stability of a guiding team of understanding teachers and, perhaps for the first time, with classmates who indicate that you are not alone in the challenges that seemed to set you apart from peers in every way.  

Being disconnected from learning in adolescence has wide-ranging consequences. So becoming connected can be a revelation. Every young person deserves to experience a meaningful education. One that begins to show you who you are and what you can do with your life. And that both of those has considerable value.

So we salute the educators who are opening the door to a future to those who felt left in the dark. The education team at the Barrett Adolescent Special school are a precious resource. A gem that, while currently unique, doesn’t need to be rare. If the government acknowledges the asset as it should, we should see more of these programs throughout the state. There are currently no plans in that area so that is clearly something we must advocate for. (And we’re just a few weeks from a state election. So if you email the Premier and the Education Minister now to stress what young Queenslanders need, that could make a real difference.)

You can read more about the Barrett Adolescent Special School on our Qld Govt (Education) page here, on our page about Support Schools here, and at the school’s website here. Congratulations to Education Queensland on a specialised service that is becoming more vital every day!


This is the second of our October series, ‘Focus on EDUCATION’.

If you haven’t checked out the first yet, you can do so here or go direct to the linked video here.

Education for Young People with Severe Mental Health Issues

Today is World Teachers Day.*

Saturday is World Mental Health Day.*

So at severeyouthmentalhealth.org, we’ll be focussing on EDUCATION for young people with severe mental health issues throughout October.

Highlighting what’s available and what’s needed for young people in this area is relevant anytime. But the global pandemic has made this – like many other things – an urgent issue. The theme of 2020 World Teachers Day is, appropriately:

Leading in crisis, reimagining the future
So this October, we’ll be paying tribute to the truly amazing educators who are already showing the way in specialised education for young people for whom mental health issues have rendered every other education option ineffective. We’ll shine a light on the best but also ask “where’s the rest“?

In future posts we’ll look at Support Schools, the AETC education program and ways educators can share insights across their network. We’ll look at Queensland and see if young people across the state are being properly supported to keep learning through severe mental health issues and a global pandemic.

For those who have disengaged from education because you felt misunderstood, … because even modified, distance ed or other services couldn’t keep you learning, … it’s important that you know that the problem is not with you. Teachers have shown us they can be flexible, resourceful and mindful of individual needs in 2020. But to properly support students with severe mental health issues, teachers need to know more about those young people and the programs that will work to keep them on a path where progress is inevitable. In time. SO the service providers – government and private – must ensure that teachers have that specialised knowledge and that there are places with appropriate environments where individual goals are the foundation for expert staff to provide targeted programs.

But the most important place to start is to hear from the young people themselves about what they need. And the struggle they can go through trying to find it.

Health Consumers Queensland has just released some short videos created by those in their severe youth mental health consumer and carer network. Young people and those close to them have shared their experiences in the hope that education providers will listen. And learn. And then enable their dedicated teaching staff to deliver the programs that can mean the difference for young people affected between a life of dependence and isolation and one where independence, purpose and personal satisfaction are a reality.

Click here to watch Young People with Severe Mental Health Issues: Experiences with Healthcare & Education (9 mins)

And please share this post or the video link so that with understanding will come better services and greater support for those whose lives are so severely challenging.


World Teachers Day will be celebrated by the Queensland Education Department on 30 October and State Education Week will be 25 – 31 October.

Queensland Mental Health Week is 10 – 18 October.

 

Position Vacant on project with Queensland Alliance for Mental Health

PROJECT:
Consumer and Carer Perceptions of Mental Health Service System Changes resulting from COVID-19

(a project in partnership with Health Consumers Queensland, Metro South Addiction and Mental Health Service and the Brisbane South PHN)

ROLE:
Lived Experience Advisor
(part time up to 15 hours per week until  30 June 2021, based at QAMH Stones Corner)
https://www.seek.com.au/job/50578393
The QAMH is the state’s peak advocacy body for mental health.
And they’re undertaking a project to understand:
  • the specific changes that have occurred across services and map those services
  • the experiences of consumers and carers with those changes and
  • the perceptions of care from the service providers viewpoint
This isn’t a role that’s specifically for young people or carers of young people but it might be worth considering or sharing with others that you know.
If you want more information, click on the link to the SEEK advertisement above or  contact Sarah Childs, the Director of Engagement & Partnerships at QAMH oschilds@qamh.org.au or at  07 3394 8480.

Be part of building a Young Health Consumers Network!

Health Consumers Queensland (HCQ) plays important role in facilitating the connection between the service providers and the people who need the services. They help create an effective way for individuals and groups who have been – and are being – affected by health issues to directly advocate for the support that they need. And for the right people to listen and take action.

HCQ have been vital in facilitating the changes that have been implemented following the BAC Commission of Inquiry recommendations. Their support, guidance and planning expertise have meant that people dealing with severe health issues have been able to communicate the impact of those issues directly to the people that provide healthcare. AND in forums that minimise the challenges and magnify the important messages.

So when HCQ indicates that they’re putting together a youth health consumers network, we know that those who get involved will not only be able to create the change that’s needed but they’ll be well supported as they do so.

We’d encourage anyone who wants to find out more to read the blurb below and go to the link supplied. 

Make a difference to young people’s healthcare

Would you like to help build an effective, exciting and diverse youth health consumer network?
Could you help guide the Young Health Consumers Engagement project and ensure that what we develop together works for all young people and your different needs?
Would you like to make it possible for young people to be able to regularly share ideas and views on health services with  Queensland Health and help develop the services you need together?

We want to hear your voice!

Health Consumers Queensland is leading a project to improve the engagement of young health consumers in Queensland. We are establishing a Youth Reference Group for the project to enable and ensure the voices of young health consumers are heard.  

Many young people use Queensland Health services which are designed for older adults including emergency services, mental health services, acute and chronic support services. You have valuable experience and feedback to give that is important to policy makers, clinicians and others in the health system.

We also want to better understand any key changes you may have experienced with health services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Find out more and apply!

Have YOUR SAY on Mental Health

The government provides health services based on the National Mental Health Plan. The Fifth National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan (the Fifth Plan) and its Implementation Plan were endorsed in August 2017.

NOW, they are looking to work towards a NEW set of mental health safety priorities. And they want people in Australia to tell them …
  • what you think are the most important safety priorities in mental health,
  • how they can best improve safety in these areas, and
  • how they can monitor progress over time.

There are several ways you can let the government know what you think:

  1. You can take part in a survey (open until 10 June)
  2. You can join an online discussion (between 15 & 26 June)
  3. You can make a written submission (open until 26 June)

To do any of those, click on the links above.

People across Australia dealing with mental health issues KNOW what’s important.

We know that quite often just surviving the day has to be your focus. But if, in the next few weeks, you can make some time to give your input, the government will know where THEIR focus has to be where mental healthcare is concerned. If you can’t, perhaps you can share the links above with others who might be able to.

We need to let the government know what matters.

Australia needs the best possible mental healthcare. Telling those providing services what and how is the way to achieve that.

Thank you.


 

Opportunity for Brisbane North peer workers

A ‘Community of Practice‘ is a group of people, each with a mutual concern/ passion who, through sharing information and experiences, develop personally and professionally.

And the Brisbane North PHN is setting up a Community of Practice aimed at those currently employed in, or volunteering in, lived experience roles in the region.

Because  many peer workers don’t have access to Peer Supervision and some peer reflection and group supervision with other peers can be extremely helpful, this is a great opportunity. BUT NUMBERS ARE LIMITED! And Expressions of Interest need to be in by Monday 25 May.

So if you’re interested, you’ll need to put in an EOI ASAP.

Click here to find out more.

Hope for real change in a post-COVID future

Yesterday, former PM Julia Gillard in her role as Chair of Beyond Blue wrote an article that is truly important.
It not only highlights the fact that a national mental health response and recovery plan related to COVID-19 will be vital but indicates that irrespective of the pandemic and its implications, Australia “went into this crisis with a mental health system in need of profound change”.

We cannot ignore the fact that many people with mental health issues prior to the events of the last few months will be severely impacted by many aspects of the pandemic and the changes it has imposed on us. But it’s also important to acknowledge that anxiety and depression will be impacting those unfamiliar with mental challenges prior to this significant global event.

Julia Gillard, as well as reporting on what has already been noted about people’s use of and need for the right support to this point, underlines the ongoing positive implications of the fact that this crisis has demonstrated the capacity of the mental health community to “swiftly design and implement reforms which impact behaviour, improve outcomes, and which the community will embrace.” Our capacity to find ways to connect, adapt and collaborate have been adept and creative. So …

“We need to keep this spirit alive as we work to build a mental health system in which people seeking support have options that match their needs. We must use this opportunity to close some of the structural gaps in the system and address affordability.”

In a challenging period for the world, it’s important to find positives. And we can have hope that a country with the capacity to acknowledge an urgent need for change and take swift and decisive action is one that can apply a similar approach to critical issues beyond the pandemic. That a government that is able to take a bipartisan approach to ensure the health of its citizens should utilise the same method when lives are at stake in epidemic proportions in the way we see mental health issues having such a devastating effect outside the impacts of a pandemic.

We shall be expecting a lot from our health and other support services when the acute period of this COVID-19 crisis is behind us. But now we know that they are able to rise to such challenges, those expectations should be able to be met. And we have a right to insist that they are.

Saving lives is what had driven the unprecedented response of governments across the world to the spread of the coronavirus. And saving lives is what is always at the heart of what we demand of our mental health support services in any situation. We must always seek to find and expect the best ways to save lives … from ending AND from the dire consequences of deep suffering due to trauma, hopelessness and the many other torments of mental illness.

Julia Gillard states in her article that:

“the current shock can be what pushes us forward and delivers some of the changes people, families and communities have long needed.”

So we move towards a future armed with the knowledge that our governments can and will act in urgent circumstances. And we should accept nothing less long after this pandemic is over.

Significant change is something long overdue for mental health systems across Australia. And with the best evidence possible that systems can be altered dramatically when required, this crisis may provide us with the impetus to create a future that is not “back to normal” but ahead to the development of a system that finally genuinely responds to the needs of those it seeks to help.


You can read Julia Gillard’s article in full HERE (OR IN PDF FORMAT HERE).

Australia’s Youth Health Forum needs YOU

  • Are you aged 18 – 30?
  • Do you use the health and social care system or help someone who does?
  • Would you like to work with a diverse group of young people?
  • Do you have ideas about how we could change health and wellbeing services?
  • Are you interested in gaining leadership, advocacy and policy skills?
  • COVID-19 is disrupting the world as we know it and will force us to reimagine the services we want in the future. Do you want to have a voice in shaping that?

In 2018 the Consumers Health Forum (CHF) launched their Youth Health Forum – a group of young healthcare users who are passionate about making the system more youth-friendly and interested in gaining advocacy skills. So far they have been involved in a number of national policy discussions like the Primary Health Care 10 year plan and the National Obesity Strategy. (And you can find out more about their progress at these posts on the CHF site.)

RIGHT NOW the CHF is looking to grow and develop this platform for young voices and is inviting Expressions of Interest for new members.

Click here for more details and
To apply, complete and submit this online form or this MS Word form.

This is YOUR chance to shape the health services you and other young people access. AND gain some valuable skills in the process.

Take your experience to the people that provide the services … and make healthcare work better for people like you!

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Mental Health Resources

The following are focused on Queensland/Australia but there are some international resources. Included are some links with useful general advice as well as services for those with pre-existing mental health issues and their carers. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list. If you know of other resources that would be useful, please leave a comment and this list will be added to whenever possible.

Take care, everyone. Look after yourself as well as the significant things you are doing for other people. (And you are ALL doing that – any changes you’ve made will be saving others from having to deal with challenging health issues – so acknowledge your contribution and make sure you take the best care you can of your mental health.)

Head to Health – helping you find the right digital mental health resources for your needs
MindSpot Online assessment and treatment for anxiety and depression
ReachOut – Coping during coronavirus (COVID-19)
KidsHelpline (for ages 5yrs-25yrs)– tips and advice as well as ACCESS TO 24/7 support via phone (FREE) 1800 55 1800, email counselling, or  web chat
Beyond Blue COVID-19 mental health support service
Black Dog Institute – COVID-19 mental health and wellbeing resources
Headspace –  How to cope with stress related to coronavirus (COVID-19)
#InThisTogether – the National Mental Health Commission page with tips and links to help with mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus crisis
Queensland Mental Health Commission – COVID-19 and Mental Health
Australian Psychological Society – tips for coping with coronavirus anxiety
Arafmi – 24hr carer helpline at 1300 554 660 and online carer support groups
Blue Knot (National Centre of Excellence for Complex Trauma) – Coronavirus (COVID-19) Factsheets
Australian BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) Foundation Ltd – video ‘Strategies for getting through COVID-19 lockdown for people with BPD
Red Cross – tips for looking after your mental wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic
World Health Organisation – Mental health and psychosocial considerations during the COVID-19 outbreak