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Manjimup Senior High School hosts expo to raise awareness of youth mental health

Daniel HockingManjimup-Bridgetown Times
The Hawaiian Ride for Youth cyclists on the road.
Camera IconThe Hawaiian Ride for Youth cyclists on the road. Credit: Daniel Hocking

Manjimup Senior High School hosted several high schools in the lower South West for a youth mental health expo. The event included speakers, workshops, information stalls, live music, a sausage sizzle and guests from mental health organisations and groups.

Students from the Warren-Blackwood region, including Northcliffe, Pemberton, Nannup, Boyup Brook and Bridgetown, came to Manjimup to participate in the all-day expo.

The day started with an opening address to students from several different high schools and a keynote speech from facilitator and coaching practitioner Amy Coombe.

Ms Coombe said breaking the stigma of mental illness and informing students of the signs and what to do when they were struggling was an important part of her speech.

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“I shared my experience of struggling with a mental illness when I was a teenager and then I talked about breaking the stigma associated with mental illness and finding the courage to speak up if they are struggling, how do they know if they are struggling with a normal teenage problem or something where they need extra help,” she said.

“Then I ran a session on stress, which was specifically around stress and pressure, how do we know when it becomes too much, what happens when we sustain stress for too long, how would that play out and ways we can look after ourselves when we are too stressed.”

She said the students at the expo were unafraid to be open and engaged with their mental health and approaching strategies to engage with their mental wellbeing.

“They were incredible, they were open and honest and I think people want to know how to help themselves and learn ways to feel better and when it’s a safe environment, they opened up and were honest, vulnerable and brave and they shared a lot and they were really engaged.”

Hawaiian Ride for Youth cyclist and speaker Shane Cary spoke to students about his experience with mental health and well-being before answering questions.

Mr Cary said bringing a visual message about youth mental health to schools through the South West was an important priority for the riders.

“The riding of 700km from Albany to Perth is how we get back home, the most important thing is the school visits and us spreading awareness about Youth Focus and the counselling services available in school and out of schools throughout the South West,” he said.

“There is a lot of youth that go through a lot of tough times in the South West and the support services have always been so focused in the city, so it’s important that we are bringing the visual message that we are coming through the town and we can talk to the kids and we are raising significant amounts of money to support it.”

He said encouraging students to take their mental health seriously and to not isolate their well-being was important as well.

“There are a lot of caring teachers and adults out there in the community that can help people and that we need to keep encouraging our youth to not bury it and to talk about it and to actually come to speak to people out there rather than think they are alone.”

BYA Chairperson Sarah Youngson said de-stigmatising mental health and making teenagers more open to reaching out for help was a key goal in the expo and the events throughout the day.

“The whole goal of today is to speak to Year 9 students across the inland south west to get that message across that it’s okay to struggle with mental health, that it’s really normal and common and to de-stigmatise and encourage help-seeking,” she said.

“We recognise one in four will struggle with mental illness every year and most mental health problems will start in the adolescent years.”

“Despite that high number, we know we’re not seeing those kids presenting for help and if you don’t get help early and acknowledge that, and the longer you leave it, the harder it is to get support and your well-being suffers,”

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