In December 2019, the Commission held a codesign workshop to discuss ways of enhancing engagement with children and young people. The workshop brought together a diverse group of young people with a lived experience of mental health issues and caring and a background in advocacy, codesign, peer work and wellbeing promotion, as well as leaders from Youth Action, the Western Sydney University Institute for Culture and Society and Mental Health Children and Young People.
A member of the group, Rose, is a university student and young carer with a passion for advocacy.
“I was incredibly excited about this workshop because I am very passionate about the advocacy space – I love co-designing and brainstorming and watching as it grows into ideas and solutions.
“The mental health space is also extremely close to home for me, as someone who has lived with one parent with mental health issues and another with a disability,” says Rose.
The discussion was robust and dynamic, and the group began by identifying issues faced by children and young people in relation to mental health and wellbeing. They identified several key issues including the need for care that is holistic and integrated and the complexity of accessing support, especially for more vulnerable young people such as those in out of home care, leaving the juvenile justice system or transitioning from school into university.
“When you turn 18, you finish school and the supports that you have relied on are suddenly gone. I’ve recently had to go out and find my own psychologist. There really needs to be more support during this stage as suddenly, you’re considered an adult and the same services aren’t available to you even though it is a time when you’re incredibly vulnerable and need help the most.
“Navigating the mental health space can be hard for young people, and I’ve had friends get the courage to pick up the phone and admit they need help and then go around in circles looking for the right support, which can be confronting and traumatic,” says Rose.
The group also emphasised the importance of respecting children and young people’s capacities, circumstances and unique identities, actively seeking diverse voices and ensuring all engagement is conducted in a manner that is mutually beneficial and safe.
The group discussed the ways children and young people would like to connect with the Commission. Suggestions for maintaining connection included the Commission attending:
• events such as NSW Youth Week
• events through schools, universities and TAFES such as Orientation weeks at universities, Health and wellbeing week at Universities and career expos
• Local Council festivals
The Commission looks forward to getting involved in some of the suggested engagement activities and supporting children and young people such as Rose who are committed to advocating in the mental health space.
“The mental health space is going to grow. Even though we are going to get robots doing our grocery shopping, you’re not going to get a robot helping with mental health issues!
“I hope I will always be involved in advocacy. It sounds a bit far-fetched, but maybe one day when I’m older and have kids, I can be the mental health commissioner,” says Rose.