Blog by Chris Tanti, CEO headspace, Australia
It seems like an age ago that headspace hosted the first-ever International Youth Mental Health Conference in Melbourne.
I still consider the conference a key point in our organisation’s short history. Having some of the world’s foremost thinkers in youth mental health arriving in town and participating in a range of discussions helped contribute to a sense that youth mental health was finally high up on the agenda in Australia.
Prof Pat McGorry, one of the minds behind the establishment of headspace, had just been named Australian of the Year because of his work in youth mental health; funding was being boosted and the community interest in this previously taboo topic seemed to be increasing by the day.
Dylan Lewis, a radio host and headspace Ambassador who participated in one of the key forums in 2010 with McGorry, puts it well: “There was a great energy in that space… it felt like the powers-that-be were finally listening, and stuff was being done by powerful people, governments… so there was a voice that was starting to be heard a lot more clearly and that room was full of people who wanted to listen to those voices.”
Fast forward three years and that interest in youth mental health has now been well and truly embedded in the Australian community. headspace is on track to open 90 centres within the next two years. New services have been established like eheadspace, which provides support to young people online and over the phone and headspace school support, which helps secondary schools deal with the aftermath of suicide.
We’re thrilled to be closely associated with the upcoming conference in Brighton. I’ll be leading a plenary session titled headspace: An innovative approach. There will be a strong contingent from headspace at the event, with papers delivered on a range of topics as varied as community awareness, treatment studies that have taken place in headspace centres, what headspace and eheadspace services provide and how we are evaluating the outcomes, and youth participation.
The latter subject area is one that brings me particular pride, as the head of an organisation that puts young people at the heart of everything we do. Members of our headspace Youth National Reference Group (dubbed hY NRG) will present to the conference. Needless to say there’s a mix of nerves and excitement at the prospect of talking to such a large and distinguished audience.
The conference will hear about how hY NRG – a group of 20 young people who have had contact with our services in some form – advises headspace on its operations and directions, providing that vital conduit into the age group.
Not only do they advise us, and tell us what is important to young people, but they also help headspace communicate back the other way to their peers.
I’ll leave you with the latest example of that – the first of a series of help-seeking videos we’ve just released giving young people tips on how to improve their mental health, delivered through hY NRG members, using their own words.
It’s a great example of what we’re trying to do here at headspace. Enjoy!