Specialised Education – How it Works

To conclude our month focussing on education for young people with severe and complex mental health issues, here’s a video that illustrates what’s needed and how it works:

Click to view video on YouTube

 

To read the rest of our October posts, go to:

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

And the GOOD NEWS is … (9 Oct)

Not Patients But Students (15 Oct)

“Who We Are” and What We Need” (22 Oct)

What Learning Means (26 Oct)

 

And please do what you can to advocate for the right kind of education for the young people in your community.


 

“Who We Are” and “What We Need”

We started our month on education for young people with severe mental health issues by introducing one of the new videos created by the Health Consumers Queensland consumer/carer network – ‘Education for Young People with Severe Mental Health Issues’ (5 Oct). That video – which gives insights into the lives of these young people – is also half of a 2-part series aimed at education service providers (government, private organisations, curriculum designers as well as teachers).

But, in the same way that Part 1 (Who We Are) is able to highlight aspects of what the reality of living with severe and complex youth mental health issues can be, Part 2 (What We Need)’s concise clarity gives indications of the personal perspective that, when shared, can help to properly develop wider understanding of what severe youth mental health issues can actually mean. Especially in relation to the gulf that those directly affected can feel between their experience/needs and what is available to help them – a burden which can add to a situation that’s already overwhelming.

So please share this post or links directly to the videos wherever you see opportunities to raise awareness and/or communicate what’s necessary to ensure the most effective services become available.

CONSUMERS AND CARERS ON EDUCATION FOR YOUNG PEOPLE WITH SEVERE MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES
Experiences with Education: Part 1 – Who We Are 

Experiences with Education: Part 2 – What We Need

 


To read our previous October posts focused on education, go to:

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

And the GOOD NEWS is … (9 Oct)

Not Patients But Students (15 Oct)

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)

 

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.

 

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!

NEEDED: Youth Peer Worker for Jacaranda Place

If you’re a young person with lived experience of mental illness who has experienced recovery, you can – with specialised training – support others with mental health difficulties by providing hope and modelling positive strategies and outcomes.

The new Extended Treatment Centre for young people at Chermside in Brisbane will have a number of Peer Workers and Children’s Health Queensland (CHQ) have just begun advertising for an:

 Advanced Peer Worker (Youth)
(click above to go to job listing)

As well as sharing your own lived experience and life stories, you will encourage self-awareness and self-determination in those at a different stage of recovery. You’ll be part of the development, planning and delivery of support services to consumers, carers and families and your capacity to model recovery strategies will allow service providers and Non-Government Organisations (NGO’s) to develop a better understanding of the best framework to achieve positive outcomes for young people and their families.


There are healthcare staff and education staff and other people with qualifications and skills who can help young people with mental health issues. But no one has the expertise of a young person who has lived experience.

Being a Peer Worker in this field is an incredibly valuable role. Not only do you know better than most how it feels to be in the position of the young people who’ll need Jacaranda Place … but you know that the most important people in the lives of young people can be OTHER young people. You’re not at a distance considering what their life might be like. You’re them but just further along the recovery path. So a Peer Worker at the new centre will be a key member of the team.

To find out more, go to the job advertisement by clicking here.

There, you can also access the Role Description and a general Information package about working for Children’s Health Queensland (the Hospital and Health Service responsible for the new AETC).

If you’re in recovery and you feel you could help others along the way to a better future, consider applying for this position.

You could make a real difference in the lives of people who need to know it’s possible.

Times Like These

For those suffering from mental health issues, what’s happening in the world right now will be particularly challenging. The unpredictability. The change. Those are the kryptonite of the anxious.

The ‘unprecedented’ nature of the current situation might feel overwhelming. But as I think about the courageous young people I have met and heard about over the last 7 years, I can’t avoid the fact that they have resources of tenacity and strength that I previously didn’t know existed.

This is indisputably true.

It’s not empty flattery or encouragement. It is a fact.

I once wrote a children’s story about what ‘brave’ is. The message is simply that brave is feeling fear and still trying. And young people with severe mental health issues do that every day. Just when they think they’ve felt the worst that they could feel, their brain throws a curveball and it seems like maybe the thought or feeling right now is even worse than that. That’s the nature of mental illness.

And yet, these amazing young people keeping going.
They put one foot in front of the other.
They breathe in. They breathe out.
And time passes.
And something that might not have seemed possible happens … 
One day they realise that they don’t feel quite as bad as they did.

That they’ve done some things and maybe interacted with some people.
And they might just have reached the other side of that torrent of fear. 

Not in an instant. 
Not like a switch turning off.
But gradually, bit by bit. Getting through it.

That is what will happen with the coronavirus and the measures needed to minimise its impact.

This will end, every pandemic and epidemic will end.

The world will get to the other side.

It might feel to so many that there have never been ‘times like these’ before. So reassurance can feel empty. But there have never been times like any particular time period. There has never been another minute like the minute that just passed. Never been a Christmas like last Christmas.  Every time is history is unique. So this one, in that respect is no different.

So we can’t overlook that:

  • there has never been a time when science and medicine have been so advanced.
  • there has never been a time when knowledge can be so quickly shared.
  • there has never been a time when we could stay at home AND see our friends via a screen AND discover how to make a snack from the things that had disappeared into the pantry’s black hole. AND play video games with someone on the other side of the world AND think of our favourite movie and then watch it on a phone AND join a universal quest to be the most impressive at throwing paper into a bin.
But interestingly, there is an exception to this rule of unique times.
An important exception that can’t be denied.

If you are one of those young people who has had challenges and got to the other side, you can’t ignore the fact that you have done this before.
That you have felt the weight and pushed through it.
That you have experienced that eternal internal scream that eventually hushed.
That you have got through before. So you will get through again.

Because you have the strength and the skills to do it. Even when you think you don’t.

You’ve proved it already. You’ve done it already. (And there others around you who might not have.)
You have the EXPERIENCE and the RESOURCES.
And never forget that you have the SUPPORT.
You have people who are sending you their strength and their love and their energy.
People you know. And even people like me who you don’t know.
But mostly you’ve got the COURAGE. Based on the clear definition, you are BRAVE.
So you’ve got this one.
Just breathe in. And breathe out. 
And FaceTime a friend.
Watch a Koala on Livestream while you listen to some soothing music.
Tell your grandma a joke on Facebook.
Download an app that’ll make cuisine from the ingredients you’ve got (or just go ahead a make that m&m sandwich)
Think of someone you can help just by staying where you are.

You know you can do it.

So tell someone else that they can too.

And we’ll all get to the other side together.

*KEY ROLES FOR CONSUMERS AND CARERS in Selection of New Centre’s Staff

People with lived experience of severe and complex youth mental health issues have shaped the design of the new inpatient extended treatment centre at Chermside. They have had input into the model of care. AND NOW …

THEY HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO SIT ON THE SELECTION PANEL FOR THOSE THAT WILL STAFF THE CENTRE.

Children’s Health Queensland (CHQ) –the Hospital and Health Service under which the new AETC will operate – is committed to having consumers and carers as equal and valued members of the selection panel that will determine the appointments of professionals in the clinical roles at the Chermside Centre.

 

So Expressions of Interest are being invited now
with applications closing on 19 July
for Consumers and Carers to submit their completed forms.*

Consumer and Carers involved will, as has been the case throughout the development of the AETC, be comprehensively supported by Health Consumers Queensland (HCQ) and there will be

  • A 90 minute training session for every consumer/carer who becomes involved in the recruitment process as well as opportunities for pre-brief and post-interview debriefing
  • Reimbursement for travel and parking expenses and
  • Remuneration for time spent training, pre-reading, shortlisting, and interviewing at $40 per hour

We all know that it’s the PEOPLE that make a facility into a HEALING ENVIRONMENT.
And now, it’s those with the personal experience of the types of individuals who can do that whose contributions can lead to the selection of the team who will change lives.

YOU KNOW WHO’S NEEDED.

SO PUT IN AN EXPRESSION OF INTEREST TO BE AT THE TABLE OF THOSE APPOINTING THE STAFF WHO WILL COLLABORATE, RESPECT AND UNDERSTAND.

 

For more information, you can download the following documents:

CHQ on Consumer and Carer Involvement in Staff Recruitment

HCQ’s Recruitment Training

and to put in an Expression of Interest, just click on the link here to download the form.

OR

you can go to the dedicated page on the HCQ website for all you need.

*Note that if you can’t get your form in by 19 July and you still want to apply, you can contact Leonie Sanderson of HCQ on 0437 637 033.

And PLEASE, share this post as widely as possible to give all consumers and carers who might be interested the opportunity to be involved. 

IMPORTANT DECISIONS REQUIRE IMPORTANT PEOPLE 
and the most important people in this process are the Queenslanders who REALLY KNOW about severe and complex youth mental health issues.

Deadline extended for Youth Mental Health Consumer Rep role

Please note that due to a technical glitch with the Health Consumers Queensland (HCQ) website, the deadline for applications for the available Youth Mental Health Consumer Rep role has been extended to Friday 22nd February. So please continue to encourage anyone you know who might have expressed an interest to put in their application.

Click below to go directly to the HCQ page:

EXPRESSION OF INTEREST YOUTH MENTAL HEALTH CONSUMER REPRESENTATIVE OPPORTUNITY

or access information from our previous post at:

Youth Mental Health Consumer Opportunity … 18–29 year olds PLEASE APPLY


 

The Severe and Complex Youth Mental Health Cohort

A New Year has begun.
So what lies ahead for people affected by severe and complex youth mental health issues?
Of course we can’t know. We can hope.

BUT IS HOPE ENOUGH AFTER ALL THAT PEOPLE HAVE HAD TO ENDURE?

The people who genuinely understand what “severe and complex” is in adolescence remain a minority.
Those who know exactly are those who live it every day.

Beyond them, who else recognises that severe and complex youth mental health issues” defines a unique group of young people? That this is a group whose mental health issues are far from treatable depressive or anxiety disorders.

Young people with severe and complex mental health issues experience symptoms, behaviours and triggers that are unpredictable, tortuous, idiosyncratic and often extreme and life-threatening.
They are burdened by the challenges of balancing between child- and adulthood – all while they confront the implications of multiple conditions that interact with each other to produce effects that sometimes don’t relate to any one of their individual diagnoses.
They can be young people whose traumatic histories have left them socially isolated, traumatised, misunderstood and even ignored for significant portions of their lives.
This cohort of patients – as well as those who care for them – MUST HAVE proper recognition.
If this does not happen on a wide scale in 2019, then the devastation of the Barrett Closure will be part of an ongoing tragedy.

Yes, a new centre is being built which is an incredible relief.
And yes, there has been a real commitment to a collaborative design process that includes people with lived experience as well as healthcare professionals and experts in the architecture and construction of mental healthcare buildings. It’s hoped that this will mean the beginning of this kind of process for other healthcare service development.

But as we start the New Year with the deaths of Talieha Nebauer, Will Fowell and Caitlin Wilkinson Whiticker still under examination by the Queensland Coroner, we need to ask:

Will this be another year that ends with uncertainty?

Will there be the vital outcomes for the families who repeatedly warned that the closure of the Barrett Centre would put the most vulnerable young people at even higher risk?
Will there be public recognition of the false administrative deadline, political cost-cutting motivation and lack of appropriate replacement services that meant transitions from the closing centre could never encompass the fundamental principles of stability and continuity of care for young people whose illness bears the risk of fatal consequences?
Will there be the long overdue acknowledgment of the few professionals whose understanding and expertise allowed them to continue their dedication to the welfare of traumatised young people with skilled measures that prevented even greater permanent damage?

Will there be a move towards wide-reaching processes to educate healthcare professionals about this cohort and the fact that their needs differ from the majority of people requiring clinical support for mental health issues?

Without the clear and tangible acceptance (with whatever documentation/ endorsement is required*) across the healthcare sector – and beyond – that young people with severe and complex mental health issues require truly SPECIALISED support from skilled practitioners who have the KNOWLEDGE of and COMMITMENT to individualised care, the young people in this cohort will continue to be referred to treatment options that have little chance of achieving progress. …
They will find themselves repeatedly confronted by the futile expectation that treatment that has been effective for those whose illness is less complex and less severe might eventually achieve a modicum of progress.
They will stand in Emergency Departments and be told that their compulsion to harm themselves is ‘just attention-seeking’ behaviour.
They will be informed by more than one practitioner that they are too complex for his/her level of experience. And then be left with nowhere left to turn.
And they will retreat to somewhere where they feel they cannot fail again. But where they will become even more lost.

But this lack of progress is not THEIR failure …

These young people and their families and friends deserve better.
They always have.
They have always deserved the best. But have too often received the worst.

They are still often judged and dismissed.
Even though they compromise and keep trying to give clarity to what their lives are like and what they need.

They slip through the cracks of both healthcare and education.
Even though they are desperate for effective treatment and an opportunity to have lives that are even a shadow of the opportunities they see other young people immersed in.

The lives of young people with severe and complex mental health issue are hard enough.
It takes effort to face a world that terrifies.
It takes strength to sit in corridors waiting to give voice to your greatest fears and darkest moments.

No one WANTS to expose thoughts and feelings that are deep inside and quashed because an illness has created them but yet for which the sufferer feels personally responsible. Or like a Freak. Or Weird. Or Evil.
No one WANTS to stay in a psychiatric facility unless they know that it’s the only thing that can save them.
And no person wants to do those things again and again and again because their medication isn’t effective or because their complexity is beyond their current clinician’s experience.

But this is the life that those affected by severe and complex mental youth health issues have been living.
Because of illness.
Not karma. Not punishment. Not of their own doing in any way.

It is a health issue. That becomes an emotional issue. A social issue. It affects development and learning and relationships and futures.

It changes lives.

It takes lives.

AND ALL THESE YOUNG PEOPLE AND THEIR FAMILIES HAVE EVER NEEDED IS TO BE TRULY SEEN AND HEARD.
SO THE WORLD NEEDS TO LISTEN.
CLINICIANS NEED TO KNOW.
AND THEN APPLY THAT KNOWLEDGE.
The status quo is not good enough.
Not knowing is not good enough.

We know 3 young people died after the closure of the Barrett Centre.
We know other young people died before them and after them because their severity and complexity was not adequately recognised and supported.

So 2019 must be the year that Queensland,  Australia – and beyond –
SEES these young people and those that care for them.

RECOGNISES them.
LEARNS ABOUT THEM, FOR THEM AND WITH THEM.
AND DOES WHAT IS NEEDED TO GENUINELY HELP THEM.

.

If this year passes without those things happening,
we all should
know better.

.
Because we will have learnt absolutely nothing.

.

.


*  This need for clarification extends from those with lived experience to experts in the area of youth mental with extensive clinical and research backgrounds and a genuine understanding of the severe and complex cohort.
Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health, is the world’s leading research and knowledge translation organisation focusing on mental ill-health in young people.  Professor Patrick McGorry is Orygen’s Executive Director. Their official response to the draft version of the National Mental Health Plan highlights a serious lack of clarification as regards severe and complex mental health issues i.e.

“… greater clarity (and consensus between the governments) needs to be articulated in the Fifth Plan to describe what is meant by ‘complex and severe’… “

and under “Specific feedback on the priority areas“, it’s stressed that there is:

“Over simplification of the experiences and stages of mental ill-health in the division of ‘complex and severe’ and the rest of the population. 

Unfortunately when the final version of the Plan was released, no changes had been made in that area. (Click image, right, to view draft and final text comparison.)

It’s also worth noting that in this 74 page document, the word “youth” appears only in reference to the Youth Suicide Prevention Plan for Tasmania (within a list of State and Territory Plans and Commitments). The word adolescent” appears a total of 4 times (two of those in one bibliography listing) and the phrases “young people” and “young adult/s” do not appear at all.