Congratulations to Jemma (Year 8) who placed second in the Youth Write Competition's 12-14 years category. The competition was conducted by City of Parramatta Libraries and WestWords as part of Youth Week held in April. Entrants were required to compose a 400-600 word opinion piece on either climate change, mental health or employment. Jemma wrote her piece on youth mental health and its importance especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. You can read Jemma's piece below.
Mental Health Opinion Piece
By Jemma S - Year 8
Mental health is a prominent topic in today’s society, the third-highest rated issue of personal concern for young people. Are we really accepting the magnitude of this problem, when 54% of people with mental illness do not seek any help, even though three-quarters of those receiving help improve notably?
So what really is mental health? It can be defined as a state of wellbeing in which every individual realises their own potential, can work productively through the normal stresses of life and is able to contribute to the community. This issue has never been more relevant than in the current times of COVID-19.
Seven times the amount of money spent on mental health promotion is spent on treatment facilities and programs. While treatment of people with a mental illness is crucial, spending more money on the promotion of mental health and the prevention of mental illnesses in the short term will provide more benefits in the long term.
I believe that the best and most effective way to reduce mental illness and increase mental health is through a government-funded mass media campaign specifically targeting adolescents. A unified and inclusive approach is needed to have the maximum impact possible, combining the content and images of multiple organisations to create a well-known, widespread, accessible and accessed resource.
As part of this campaign, a wellness app would become available to monitor your health, whereby you answer questions or rate yourself depending on how you are feeling, for each component of wellbeing [physical, mental, social and spiritual]. Depending on your results, different activities would be suggested, and you would be directed to a helpline if any aspect were particularly bad.
This unified campaign would combine the good work already being undertaken by many organisations in one easy-to-use place where all the information would be. This would encourage adolescents to use the resources there instead of searching around multitudes of organisations for the information needed. It becomes a one-stop shop for all wellbeing needs. As this campaign would be centred on the wellness app, it is perfect for young people who are heavy users of technology.
Currently, BeyondBlue, headspace and the Black Dog Institute are three organisations each trying to promote good mental health and make a positive difference. These offer resources, tips, facts, support, programs, services and initiatives. There are also events such as RUOK? Day on 12th September, World Mental Health Day on 10th October and Mental Health Awareness Month in October. These are all small parts that would have a much greater impact if combined into one approach, reaching more people, in more ways.
The most important thing that needs to change in our perceptions of mental health is people’s awareness and acceptance, so promotion needs to be used to raise awareness. Adolescents need to be educated on the importance of mental fitness in conjunction with physical fitness, and taught how to become mentally fit. This will contribute to a holistic view of wellbeing, which is essential during times of hardship, such as those we are experiencing currently.
Awareness and reducing stigma associated with mental illness prevents it from becoming a problem in the first place. Seeking help is okay, and doing nothing isn’t going to spread that message to young people. Promoting wellbeing for adolescents is not an issue to be taken lightly or ignored, so steps we take now may end up having vast benefits in the future.