Mental illness affects one in five Australians. The World Health Organisation estimates between 10-20% of children and adolescents worldwide experience mental health disorders, with half of these occurring before the age of 14. If left untreated, mental illness can severely impact a young person’s development and wellbeing.
The second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing estimates 1 in 7 children and young people are assessed as having a mental health condition.
The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network provides mental health services to children, adolescents and their families. This year, two Youth Peer Support Workers joined the Network’s Mental Health team, further strengthening the service.
Youth peer support workers are in a unique position to use their lived experience of mental illness to form collaborative, supportive relationships with young people. By harnessing their own experience of mental illness with recovery they support young people to make the transition from inpatient care to life in the community.
Catherine Garner, one of the Network’s Youth Peer Support Workers said the joy of peer support is that it gives young people a hope story.
“It shows young people that they can live a rich, full life while also living with mental illness,” Catherine says.
Network Co Head of Psychological Medicine, Andrea Worth said the Youth Peer Support Workers use their lived experience of mental illness to model recovery and provide hope for young people experiencing mental illness.
“Our Peer Support Workers bring humanity to our mental health care. They keep us accountable and challenge the stereotypes we hold about mental illness. They provide hope for young people that recovery is possible and likewise for clinicians the hope that what we do makes a difference. From my perspective they strengthen and enrich the team,” says Andrea.
Stigma about mental illness continues to be a barrier for young people seeking the support and help they need. October is Mental Health Month, a time to challenge the perceptions about mental illness and to encourage everyone to look at Mental Illness in a more positive way.