What do you enjoy most about your role?
I enjoy the diversity and unique challenges that this role presents. Every day is different – one day we might be delivering suicide prevention training in secondary schools and the next we are filming social media content for our #chatsafe channels, or working with health providers and policy makers to inform best practice across settings. I learn something new every day, and have the immense privilege of working alongside incredibly talented and passionate researchers who really believe in the value of the work we do.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
Suicide is a confronting topic, and there are times when the subject matter can be upsetting, or sometimes it feels like we can never do enough to overcome the problem. However, I find the proactive and preventative nature of our work to be incredibly hopeful. In suicide prevention research, you have to look beyond the data and into the complexities of people’s life experiences to understand the social, economic, political and systemic factors which impact upon a person’s wellbeing. Our work embeds preventative strategies into research, so that we’re able to offer support and solutions at the same time as we’re responding to the problems and gathering data.
How has the pandemic impacted young people’s mental health?
The pandemic has undoubtedly had an enormous impact on young people’s mental health and we will continue to see the long-term effects into the future. We’ve seen increased mental health presentations to hospital emergency departments, increased demand for specialist services and increased calls to crisis lines across the country, however we have been fortunate not to see an associated increase in suicide deaths during that period. This shows that more young people are reaching out for help and attempting to engage with mental health care when they need it. We now need to ensure that they’re met with high quality, evidence based clinical support. I think that young people have shown incredible strength and resilience throughout, despite being one of the most vulnerable populations in terms of economic instability, disruptions to education, and social disadvantages.
What were some of the key findings on young people’s experiences accessing mental health support that contributed to the report published by the National Mental Health Commission?
Our team consulted with 11 young people who generously shared their personal experiences of seeking care during suicidal crises, and their voices informed a submission to the National Mental Health Commission’s report. Young people told us that a wide range of cumulative factors contributed to their experiences of suicidality, and that they utilised a variety of both formal and informal help-seeking resources. However, their help-seeking journeys were frequently difficult and complex, which increased the risk of drop-off or disengagement along the way. This shows us that services need to cater to the specific needs of young people to provide flexible, inclusive and acceptable models of care. Young people told us that when their help-seeking experiences included genuine care, validation and empathy, they were more likely to be beneficial in the long-term.
Do you have any other updates from Orygen?
There is a great deal of clinical innovation and service transformation currently underway at Orygen. We are expanding our clinical services including the new Youth Prevention and Recovery Centre, developing a specialist youth aftercare service for young people following a suicide attempt, and Orygen at Home, a hospital in the home model. The findings of the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System present a once in a generation opportunity for landmark reform across the sector, and Orygen is really proud to partner with young people in advancing this work.
Established in 2002, Orygen is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading research organisations focusing on mental ill-health in young people. Orygen has driven a shift in services and treatments to focus on early intervention.