Stigma a barrier to region's mental well-being

ACCESSING help for mental health issues can be difficult for young people living in rural areas because of a lack of anonymity.

The latest State of Victoria’s Children report identifies a lack of anonymity, stigma and a culture of self-reliance as barriers to seeking help.

Limited access to transport and qualified local mental health professionals and services were also identified as issues.

Young people’s mental health has been in the spotlight in Bendigo recently, with the Minister for Mental Health Mary Wooldridge last week opening the Bendigo Youth Prevention and Recovery Care Service – a 10-bed facility that provides 24-hour treatment and support for young people aged 16 to 25.

Bendigo Y-PARC is co-ordinated by Bendigo Health in partnership with MIND Australia and is expected to significantly boost mental health services available to young people in Bendigo and the Loddon Mallee region.

The youth mental health beds are a first for regional Victoria and will reduce the need for Bendigo residents to travel to Melbourne for treatment.

The official opening came just days after the launch of the much-anticipated headspace Bendigo and the opening of the new Bendigo Youth Central – a vibrant youth space in the heart of Bendigo.

Bendigo Community Health Services CEO Kim Sykes said it was important to strike a balance between bed-based services and other community-based programs.

“If we’ve got good approaches to really trying to build resilience and address the barriers that inhibit people, especially young people, from getting help early then we can hopefully reduce the level of distress for that individual,” she said.

“The research tells us that there’s a lot can be done, that includes even something as fundamental as the impact decent nutrition and exercise has on your health and wellbeing.

“It’s going to be harder to feel good if you’re not putting decent stuff in.

“So there’s a range of things that you can do around prevention that are thinking about diet and exercise and also then engaging them.

 “It’s the social connectedness, and again the sports and recreation clubs, the volunteering, the stuff that gives people a sense of worth. So all of that’s really important.”

Ms Sykes said there was still work to be done around reducing the stigma attached to mental health.

“It’s about letting kids know it’s okay if they don’t feel right that it’s okay to get some help and that there’s a range of places that they can go,” she said.

“If they don’t know where to go then places like headspace are terrific because there are seven partner organisations linked to the provision of that service in Bendigo and each of them brings their strengths as well.

“”But if kids don’t feel that they want to go to something like headspace then go to your GP, go to your folks, talk to your parents, talk to your teacher, make sure that you find someone that you can trust and you talk about that.”

SERVICE: Minister for Mental Health Mary Wooldridge at the opening of Bendigo Y-PARC last week. Picture: JODIE DONNELLAN

SERVICE: Minister for Mental Health Mary Wooldridge at the opening of Bendigo Y-PARC last week. Picture: JODIE DONNELLAN

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