What do you enjoy most about your role?
Working with young people! And working as part of a committed team with a shared mission of helping youth who experience mental health issues lead meaningful lives.
It’s a privilege to see young people with mental health challenges engage in meaningful education and employment, enabling them to learn life-long skills, build relationships, confidence and overall wellbeing, while contributing to the communities in which they live.
At Youth Focus, every day is different and every day I am inspired by young people ready to take on new challenges.
What are some of the challenges that young people are facing in Western Australia?
Primary presenting issues for young people in our care include suicidal ideation, anxiety, self-harm, depression and family conflict. While the stigma surrounding mental health has reduced, there is still an overall lack of knowledge and understanding.
Research shows that young people with mental health issues benefit from the positive aspects of employment, but have difficulties finding and keeping employment. Many workplaces aren’t equipped to support their staff or may be unwilling to hire a young person with a disclosed history of mental health challenges. That’s where our Vocational Support Program, which works in tandem with Youth Focus counselling, is able to help.
Can you share a bit more about the Vocational Support Program?
The Youth Focus Vocational Support Program is an evidence-based and independently accredited supported employment model that integrates employment and vocational services with clinical care.
Evidence shows a strong correlation between mental health and employment – lack of meaningful employment can create or exacerbate mental health challenges, and many young people experiencing mental health concerns struggle to effectively engage with the workforce.
Supporting young people to obtain education or employment outcomes of their choosing, our experienced Vocational Specialists are part of a ‘shared care’ model and play a critical role in helping to break this cycle and empower young people to follow their vocational pathway towards a brighter long-term future.
What are some examples of positive outcomes for graduates of the Vocational Support Program?
I’m incredibly proud of all the clients that the team and I have worked with, but a couple of stories have really stuck with me.
Earlier this year, I started working with a young Aboriginal male from Mandurah who had experienced a very challenging adolescence. He was 18 years old and had never been employed. We went through how to look for work, developed his resume and practiced interview skills. We also helped him to get his Learner’s Permit. He expressed interest in hospitality and we helped him secure a casual role as a kitchen hand in a popular beachside restaurant.
After just three weeks, his employer saw his potential and promoted him to a part-time junior chef role. He is also now studying his Certificate III in Hospitality. Having accessed counselling services for a year he recently told the Youth Focus team that he is too busy working and studying to access support, and more importantly, that he doesn’t need it anymore.
Another client is Ella, who has kindly shared her story in this video.
Do you have any other updates from Youth Focus?
We’re excited to continue to build on the Vocational Support Program in 2021/22.
With the program now offered from Youth Focus in Burswood and the wider Perth metropolitan area as well as similar programs at our headspace sites in Albany, Midland and Geraldton, our organisation is now the largest provider of education and employment support for young people with mental health issues in Western Australia.
In 2020/21, Youth Focus supported more than 12,000 young people through face-to-face counselling, vocational support, education and engagement activities.
The generous ongoing support we receive from Future Generation Global has been critical in enabling us to deliver and grow this important program, so thank you!
Youth Focus and Future Generation Global
Future Generation Global’s investment sustains the Vocational Support Program for young people experiencing mental ill-health as a barrier to obtaining meaningful employment and education. In its first year, the program supported 51 young people in applying for employment and education opportunities.