Accessing mental health support is a unique challenge for remote-area teens

KeepHealthCare.ORG – Accessing mental health support is a unique challenge for remote-area teens

It took years for Pritika Desai to seek help.

“I had my first thoughts of suicide when I was 10 years old,” she said.

“I only asked for help when I was 16.

Long waiting lists and lack of access to mental health services for regional youth prevent many like Pritika from seeking help.

“I honestly didn’t know what [services] existed,” she said.

“Even if I found services, there was a sense of shame around accessing them.

“Bulk-billing psychologists and psychiatrists are almost non-existent.

“People from the Northern Territory have to Skype into someone down in the southern states because there’s such a lack of services and long waiting lists.”

Pritika Desai felt the lack of resources and stigma surround mental health prevented her from seeking help.

Image of a young woman — Pritika Desai, founder of ShoutOut!, sitting on the ground chatting to people at an event.

Pritika Desai felt the lack of resources and stigma surround mental health prevented her from seeking help.

Battling stigma

Even once she found help, Pritika found she still had to deal with people treating her differently when they found out about her mental health issue.

“I went to the psychiatrist and because of the stigma I experienced, I said I was cured. [In reality] I progressively got worse because I told everyone that I was fine when I obviously wasn’t,” she said.

“I think if people hadn’t treated me like I was some kind of monster or some piece of gossip when I was 16, I would have been more inclined to accept the help from the psychiatrist and other health professionals,” Pritika said.

CEO of Headspace Australia Jason Trethowan said “mental health is the number one national concern for young people in Australia.”

“While there is an increased awareness and understanding of mental ill-health in our communities, there is sadly still stigma associated with young people seeking help for mental health concerns.

Paving the way for change

Five years on, Pritika has founded ShoutOut! to fight that stigma.

Through workshops, community events and consultations with government and other organisations the ShoutOut! program empowers young people to start the conversation about mental health in the Northern Territory.

Dawyte Clancy is the volunteer coordinator at ShoutOut! and has been involved with the project since 2017.

A young man and young woman sit on the ground in the foreground of Parliament house, Canberra.

Trailblazers Pritika Desai and Dawyte Clancy.

A young man and young woman sit on the ground in the foreground of Parliament house, Canberra.

Trailblazers Pritika Desai and Dawyte Clancy.

Image:

“At that time I was pretty disengaged,” he said.

“I wasn’t going out and I’d go straight from school to home.

“I wanted to do something but I didn’t know where to start.

That all changed for Dawyte when he came across ShoutOut! while accessing mental health services.

“I messaged ShoutOut! and they said … you should jump on the role [of volunteer coordinator].

“I did and I’ve just enjoyed it since.

“I saw this as an opportunity to reconnect with other people and the wider Darwin community.”

Building an easy way to reach out

Earlier this year, Pritika and Dawyte attended the Trailblazers Lab at the Heywire Summit in Canberra.

“I think Trailblazers helped me figure out what direction I should go into,” Pritika said.

“It got us to think more deeply about our own skills and experiences and where we want to go.”

Earlier this year ShoutOut! launched a phone app, called In The Zone, aimed at young people in the Northern Territory.

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“In the Zone provides mindfulness tools and a services database based on the person’s location in the NT,” Pritika said.

“It’s a way of trying to connect with geographically isolated communities by giving them access to services and resources onto their phones.”

“It is great to see young people supporting other young people to openly talk about mental health, and ShoutOut! is doing great job in this space,” Headspace CEO Jason Trethowan said.

“Stigma plays a profound and significant role in stopping Australians from talking to someone, or reaching out for help — making it harder to get support out of fear of being judged.”

Photograph of young people dancing in a crowd at an event.

ShoutOut! also organises events for young people, such as Good Vibes Minifest.

Photograph of young people dancing in a crowd at an event.

ShoutOut! also organises events for young people, such as Good Vibes Minifest.

Pritika said she believed the conversation about mental health has come a long way in recent years.

“I think that there’s been a lot more awareness campaigns and a lot more has been done in schools than when I was in high school about 10 years ago,” she said.

“The impact that mental health has on young people means they are saying, ‘enough is enough — if we don’t do anything then who will?’.”

“It’s [ShoutOut!] telling young people where to go,” Dawyte said.

“Adults say that young people should go and see this person or that person, but if it’s a young person telling another young person, then I think that gets through to them better.”

ShoutOut! has so far helped over 800 young people in sharing their personal stories and connecting to mental health services.

“We hope to create a community where no young person has to suffer in silence like we did,” said Pritika.

If you or anyone you know needs help:

See more from our Heywire Trailblazers.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au/heywire/changing-the-conversation-around-mental-health-in-the-nt/9792076

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