One in four young people are living with a mental health issue and people aged 18-24 years have the highest prevalence of mental health problems of any age group. The University of Wollongong’s Centre for Health Initiatives (CHI) will has launched “There’s nothing mental about seeking help” campaign in an attempt to tackle the issue.
“The project aims to increase awareness of the signs and symptoms of mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression,” said Professor Sandra Jones.
“It also aims to decrease stigma around mental health and increase help seeking behaviours for UOW students”.
The campaign includes the distribution of materials, including posters, postcards and de-stress merchandise that direct students to the campaign website: http://www.nothingmentalaboutseekinghelp.com.au.
UOW students were involved in the development and testing of the concepts and materials, including the website.
As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, victims of sexual assault, domestic violence or child abuse will not be able to make a claim 10 years after the incident occurred if the bill is passed.
Victims of violence and abuse live with significant trauma, which can be extremely difficult. University of Wollongong Professor of Mental Health Nursing, Lorna Moxham, said it is important that victims and their families receive counselling and support.
Professor Moxham believes that the stigma of mental illness sufferers being seen as an ‘other’ needs to change.
“Mental health affects everyone and it does not discriminate. It is something you live with, but it does not make up the whole person,” said Professor Moxham.
Director of Nursing at the South Coast Private mental health facility in Wollongong, Maree Vukovic said, “If you don’t have good mental health or if it is suffering you are not able to function or achieve at your optimum.”
According to health statistics by the Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District, 4265 residents were hospitalised due to mental and behavioural disorders in 2009-10.
In the Illawarra there are public and private facilities for people struggling with mental illness.
Professor Moxham said access to private and public facilities is equally important.
“So many people have mental health issues, in order to help people we need to have resources at tertiary levels,” said Professor Moxham.
Headspace is a National Youth Mental Health Foundation for young people aged between 12 and 25.
One of Headspace’s purposes is help young people cope with mental health, drug and alcohol and physical health issues.
Headspace Wollongong’s Cathy Pearson said, “Youth experience a lot of mental health issues. At Headspace we have the opportunity to help prevent, intervene and reduce the burden of mental illness
According to Headspace, 75 per cent of mental health problems are apparent before the age of 25. Of the young people suffering from mental health issues, only one in four seek professional help.
Headspace Wollongong fulfils a need in the Illawarra community for free mental health services and support for youth. “As a youth friendly service, we have been trained to help and engage with young people,” said Ms Pearson.
Funded by the Federal Government’s Department of Health and Ageing, Headspace has centres around the country.
Private facilities in the Illawarra are also available for people suffering from mental illness.
South Coast Private in Burelli St, Wollongong, aims to offer superior treatment in a premium facility.
Director of Nursing, Maree Vukovic, said the facility fulfilled a local need, “people have commented that they think [a private hospital] is long overdue.”
The facility offers a range of medical and therapeutic activities for patients, including a fully equipped gym, book club and private practice rooms for appointments.
The facility’s staff includes psychiatrists, doctors and nurses who have backgrounds in mental health, drug and alcohol treatment.
Until the O’Farrell government changes are passed or rejected, NSW Victim Services are unable to accept or process any new applications.
Institution partnerships put UOW students above the rest.
UOW nursing students have gained a competitive edge with the signing of a partnership between the university and Evolution Healthcare.
The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the institutions held at South Coast Private hospital tomorrow will facilitate education and clinical practice of mental health services.
The new collaboration is not the first for UOW, which has a long list of institutional partnerships putting its students a step above the rest.
Associate Professor Angela Brown from UOW’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health said the university aims to give students the chance to explore their desired health care discipline before entering the workforce.
“We have partnerships with public, private and non-for-profit facilities to provide as many possible placement opportunities for UOW students who are competing against students from every other university in NSW, ” Professor Brown said.
Registered Nurse Brittany Donohue, who graduated from UOW in 2012, said specialized health care work experience set her apart from other nursing graduates.
“Nursing, like any other profession today is an extremely competitive market and experience is essential,” she said.
“Besides having the opportunity to put theory into practice it gives students the opportunity to learn things that are impossible to experience in a classroom environment,” she said.
Professor Brown said the new relationship between UOW and Evolution Healthcare is extremely beneficial for both parties.
“We’re all in this together,” she said.
“Last week a team of academics and students led by Professor Lorna Moxham attended a clinical training networking camp, which not only provided learning opportunities for students but benefitted mental health research across multiple disciplines,” Professor Brown said.
Along with facilitating clinical placements and conducting research projects, the collaboration aims to provide professional development training, engage UOW staff in a consultancy basis and to fund positions to benefit both parties.
The signing of the MOU will commence at 10am at South Coast Private, with a guided tour of the facilities directly after.
UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings and the Managing Director of Evolution Healthcare, Ben Thynne are both attending the event.
South Coast Private is a new 90-bed psychiatric hospital that offers high quality mental health services in anxiety management, substance withdrawal, addiction recovery, stress and anger management and chronic pain management.
Words: KATHLEEN HAINES & HANNAH SHIELDS
Video: ALYCE WEARNE
Audio Slideshow: JANAI VELEZ