Bright Minds provides shining light for youth across the Lake Macquarie region

Youth Mental Health is an issue that affects every community member in some way, with one in four young people experiencing a mental illness and 75% of all adult mental illness beginning in the teenage years. These figures show this issue is too big to continue sweeping it under the carpet.

The Bright Minds Project took a progressive approach for the young population, using a range of engaging techniques to fight the stigma of mental health and to inform everyone about supporting young people in the Lake Macquarie area.

Community Activities Lake Macquarie (CALM) Inc received a $10,000 grant from the Innovation for Community Impact program to kick start The Bright Minds Project.  The main goal of The Bright Minds Project is to reduce the stigma of mental health and improve access for young people seeking support.

The demand was there from local support services and from local schools but it was important to consult with the young people themselves to hear from them, in their voices, what would help their situations.

To ensure The Bright Minds Project resources resonated and to facilitate cut through, a Youth Reference Group (YRG) was established, with members aged 14 – 19, who are mostly still in school.

In an inspiring video showing the project in action, Jack, the oldest member of the YRG points out that “Nobody knows young people better than themselves. Young people are the key to finding the solutions”.

Spreading the message far and wide

The ‘Crew” determined early on that to be effective, they would need to adopt a multi-pronged approach when it came to getting the message across to inform and educate young people on mental health, to support themselves, family and friends.

This involved a mix of face to face presentations to students, harnessing the power of social media, engaging parents and teachers, and providing passive reminders of the key messages, which were “Its ok to ask for help”, “Reaching out is a sign of strength” and “I’m always here to listen”. This approach was effective, achieving the following:

  • School Presentation Program – 180 Year 8 students participated in a two-hour mental health presentation during Youth Week.
  • Youth Mental Health Forum – the event, held in partnership with JobQuest Newcastle, attracted over 100 students from 11 schools.
  • Newcastle / Lake Macquarie Careers Expo – distributed over 2,000 pieces of material at this event and spoke to young people, teachers and parents about their specific needs.
  • Formal Partnerships – formalised working partnerships with The Hunter Institute of Mental Health and the NSW Mental Health Drug and Alcohol Office for information, support and advice.
  • Parent Information Guide – how to identify if your teen is feeling stressed, what to look for, what to say and how to seek support. 1,000 printed and directly distributed to parents.
  • Teacher Reference Guide – guide for classroom teachers on how to identify, discuss, support and monitor a student whose mental health and wellbeing may be declining.
  • Social Media Campaign – Mindfulness Mondays, Wellbeing Wednesdays and Lift Off Fridays reached 12,500 people on Facebook and 2,700 via Instagram.
  • Splash Down Stress Free event – a community event with the simple aim of getting a laugh or a smile from all attendees. Mental health materials and support agencies were available onsite.
  • Poster / Fridge Magnet / Bus Shelter Campaigns – highlighting and reinforcing key messages.

Heightened awareness

Bradley Dunn, CALM Youth Development Officer, was the driving force behind the Bright Minds project. He said that while it is hard to measure the actual impact, they can clearly see that there is a heightened awareness of mental health in the Make Macquarie region and increased support.

“As a result of the campaigns in this region, we have seen a new youth mental health support service open its doors. Without this project and its ability to put mental health in the spotlight, these tangible outcomes would not have been achieved,” said Mr Dunn.

“We’ve also received feedback from a number of people and agencies:

  • teachers have reported more ease in identifying and referring students;
  • young people in schools are openly talking about the wellbeing of their friends and parents;
  • parents have engaged in with our project team about support needs for their children;
  • local mental health agencies are utilising our resources as part of their therapeutic strategy; and
  • CALM has received a higher than normal rate of phone and email enquiries regarding support for young people.”

Check out this fantastic video of The Bright Minds Project team in action to see how they achieved these outcomes.

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