What LEARNING Means

We all know that we continue to learn through our lives. That we start learning the day we’re born and continue until Apple has no more devices to invent. So learning isn’t simply about the information that we gain from academic study. It isn’t simply about information at all.

Learning is what we need to do so we can live. Not just to make a living but so that we can do the essential things – move, interact, consume …. so that we can exist effectively and safely within a community of other people. So that we have a sense of who we are and what we want and need and how we might acquire those things.

It’s obvious that some of our most essential learning happens in our very early years. But some of the most important learning for the rest of our lives happens when we develop the understanding that our brains and bodies have evolved to acquire during our adolescence and young adulthood. In formal education – like a classroom. And everywhere else.

Engaging with others and taking on more independence as we physically develop is a pivotal stage of life. So what happens (or doesn’t happen) as we traverse that tightrope from child- to adulthood lays the foundation for the decades to come.

So if we don’t have the opportunities to observe others, test and develop our skills and comprehend the intricacies of autonomous living and functional relationships during that period, that means we don’t progress. We don’t become someone capable of living a productive and safe adult life. We might pass 16 years on the earth, … 17 and then 18 … but if we’ve been stuck somewhere away from classrooms and shopping centres and sporting activities and entertainment venues – different people and places and circumstances  …  then we might be stuck at the social, personal and cognitive development of a 14 year old. Or younger.

Many forces linked to experiencing severe mental health issues can drive a young person to isolate from the world. Despite trying all they can to be part of it. Fear, anxiety, trauma, confusion, hopelessness  … any or all of these things can lead a young person to cut themselves off. Confine themselves – sometimes to just a couple of rooms. For a very long time.

And so they miss out on the learning that happens with their peers, with their community and in environments created by education professionals.

So ONLY an education program that recognises this situation and creates experiences that acknowledge an individual’s level of development and specific needs can support young people who’ve experienced this social isolation to making gradual progress. 

It is not enough to recognise that a young person has missed out on the acquisition of specific areas of knowledge. Because their capacity to then acquire that if presented can never be assumed. A young person must be able to recognise and regulate their emotions, establish and build positive relationships and have the tools to make responsible decisions and handle challenging situations constructively. This is why the Australian curriculum to Year 10 is not just the Maths, Science, English … that are the focus of the senior secondary years. The General Capabilities dimension that includes Personal and Social Capability can be an area that teachers of young people with severe mental health issues may need to implement even when a student is at a senior secondary age.

Personal & Social Capability icon (Australian Curriculum)

Personal and social capability supports students in becoming creative and confident individuals who, as stated in the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (MCEETYA 2008), ‘have a sense of self-worth, self-awareness and personal identity that enables them to manage their emotional, mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing’, with a sense of hope and ‘optimism about their lives and the future’. On a social level, it helps students to ‘form and maintain healthy relationships’ and prepares them ‘for their potential life roles as family, community and workforce members’ (MCEETYA, p. 9).

Students with well-developed social and emotional skills find it easier to manage themselves, relate to others, develop resilience and a sense of self-worth, resolve conflict, engage in teamwork and feel positive about themselves and the world around them. The development of personal and social capability is a foundation for learning and for citizenship.

“The development of personal and social capability is a foundation for learning and for citizenship.”

It’s THAT important.

So
when we acknowledge that young people with severe and complex mental health issues can have missed out on the experiences that facilitate this development, we start to recognise the importance of education programs that see a student as an individual. Not an age. Not a category. Not a disability or a diagnosis. But a unique person with specific needs. AND POTENTIAL.

Good teachers will plan and adapt programs and experiences accordingly.

Great teachers will do that with respect and empathy.

Thank you to all the great teachers who have brought community to a world of isolation. And who have nurtured self-esteem and fostered hope for a brighter future.

Young people with severe and complex mental health issues DESERVE GREAT TEACHERS.

Nothing less.


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)

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

“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)

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.

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!

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

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.

New AETC named Jacaranda Place

Today, as Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk visited the completed statewide Adolescent Extended Treatment Centre (AETC) at Chermside with Health Minister Stephen Miles and the member for Stafford, Dr Anthony Lynham, she announced that the facility was to be called Jacaranda Place. (Ten News First’s coverage – accessible by clicking here – has a full report and footage of the exterior and the interior as the Premier tours the finished centre.)

PremierTweetJacarandaPlace

The final design of the centre has been the result of extensive input from a large number of consumers and carers with lived experience of severe and complex mental health issues in young people following the closure of the Barrett Centre in 2013/14 and the recommendations of a Commission of Inquiry into that closure.

Jacaranda Place is a 12 bed inpatient facility that will also house a Day Program allowing young people to transition appropriately to and from treatment services. This means there were always be more than 12 young people utilising the centre. It’s hoped that the education program onsite will operate as the Barrett Adolescent Centre School did in providing for not only those young people in active treatment at the centre but for those who have moved from Jacaranda Place to treatment in the community but for whom continuity of education will ensure stability and ongoing progress. (Note that the Barrett School continues to be a vital service since its relocation to Tennyson where it now serves as a Support School for young people with severe mental health issues who don’t require long-stay inpatient care.)

BrisbaneTimesjacarandaplace2The new centre will be the base for approximately 45 medical, nursing and allied health professionals and 10 specialist educators and the Health Department is aware that those with lived experience are keen for the staff at the centre to be a valuable resource for those throughout the state dealing with the significant challenges that severe mental illness can impose on young people and their families throughout Queensland. With the lack of research worldwide into the severe and complex cohort of young people, Jacaranda Place could help not only those with direct contact with the centre but many more if the Health Department’s dedicated approach to those affected by severe youth mental health continues past the centre’s opening. Thanks to the proactive approach to co-design and collaboration taken by Queensland Health – spearheaded by Director General John Wakefield, there remains great potential for enduring benefits to take place in and beyond this new contemporary facility.

As the Premier made today’s announcement, she emphasised the importance of the new centre in the context of the tragic closure of its predecessor under Health Minister Lawrence Springborg and Premier Campbell Newman.

What happened after the Barrett Centre closed was an absolute tragedy which should never have happened,” the Premier said.

“I remember meeting with the families involved and being deeply moved by their stories, that’s why I made a commitment that we would build a new centre. I thank them for their time, their selflessness and their bravery in discussing what must have been times of terrible trial and suffering for them and their loved ones. Their input has been valuable, and will no doubt prove life-saving for future patients. I’m so proud to stand here today at the new Jacaranda Place which will ensure young people in need of mental health services get the very best possible care.”

Where the new name is concerned, Frank Tracey, Chief Executive of Children’s Health Queensland, the Hospital and Health Service with responsibility for Jacaranda Place said today:

“The name reflects the strength and resilience of the Jacaranda Tree, which represents wisdom, rebirth and good luck. It is a hardy tree that grows in difficult conditions and once a year, its true beauty is shown in full colour. The name also reflects the centre’s location and the views overlooking Jacaranda trees along Farnell Street. … [It is] a distinct and purposeful name for the centre – one that is both welcoming and representative of the stories of hope, dignity and recovery we want the centre to be known for.”

The press release announcing the naming of Jacaranda Place can be read in full here

and

7 News Gold Coast has posted Facebook video of an emotional press conference given by the Premier about Jacaranda Place opening here.

Also …

Updates of the progress of the building and construction of Jacaranda Place (including photos and video) can be found at Queensland Health’s Youth Mental Health site here.

Jacaranda Place will officially open in April so patient admission will not begin until that time.


severeyouthmentalhealth.org will keep you posted regarding the centre’s operation.

NAMING the Adolescent Extended Treatment Centre

Children’s Health Queensland (CHQ) is working with young people, families, carers and Queensland Health staff across Queensland to name the new Adolescent Extended Treatment Centre (for young people with severe and complex mental health issues).

The aim is to identify a name that represents what the centre is intended to achieve in terms of health outcomes for young people – one of hope, dignity and recovery

So CHQ are seeking the help of eight young leaders across different consumer communities to help make sure the process is inclusive and reflects the diversity of young people across Queensland.

So, if you are aged 13-24 and represent one of more of the following characteristics:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander;
  • Culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • LBTQI+
  • Have accessibility or disability requirements; or
  • Have lived experience of mental health services

and you’re available to attend meetings on

●     16 October 2019 (90 mins)
●     1 November 2019 (60 mins)
●     18 November 2019 (45 mins)

please submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) BY 13 OCTOBER and you could help provide the name that represents a better future for generations of young Queenslanders.

Those selected will be paid $187 per meeting and public transport, parking fees and private motor vehicle use will be reimbursed.

Click here to download more information and

Click here for the EOI form.

*