Peninsula Voice – depression among young people on the Peninsula

AMEP focuses on how human flourishing and well-being are nourished by any media narrative flowing through to Australians; through excellent journalism and storytelling.

Mind you, we think human flourishing and well-being is an inside-out formation; not, top-down politics. It takes constant change to ‘ego’ and ‘personality’ in favour of values and behaviour that cause human flourishing and well being.

Obviously, depression among young people troubles everyone who wish to see ‘good’ for them, and who work for human flourishing and well-being within families and communities in Shires and Cities across Australia.

My friends within Peninsula Voice are so concerned about depression among young people on the Mornington Peninsula, they are planning a big event on March 8. To raise community interest, Peninsula Voice is featuring Professor Patrick McGorry AO, from Orygen Youth Health. Professor McGorry led a coalition of professional specialists to establish the National Youth Mental Health Foundation (later to be named headspace).

On their website, headspace asserts that the core health needs of young people are mental health, general health, drug and alcohol services, as well as other support around the vocational and educational needs. Headspace centres have helped tens of thousands of young Australians who were seeking help for depression, anxiety, support for drug and alcohol and other drug issues, and bullying.

Mind you, headspace is not without its critics. Criticism by other professionals, sometimes anonymously, is about whether or not Coordinated Specialty Care (the early intervention model underpinning headspace) treatment worked more effectively than care typically available in community settings. Like most criticism, it superficially seems to be either my way or no way. There are also hints of jealousy.

However, a USA research study, RAISE, states clients participated and stayed in the CSC program because they felt they were treated with warmth and respect and because they received effective services. A good thing!

In Australia, this loud criticism seems to be about economic efficiency. Since the early 2000s a few billions of dollars have been fed into this ‘top-down’ government program. Obviously, some professionals have benefited, while others missed out.

Proponents of early intervention say it’s a ”no brainer” – medically and economically. Treat the signs of mental illness before disorders become full-blown and debilitating, and you’ll not only save money, you may also save lives. Do it in youth-friendly settings and more kids will seek help.

Right now, it would be interesting to know how many from the Mornington Peninsula have sought help.

Also, what community building assets are there among family and community groups in the towns and villages of Briars, Watson, Cerberus, Red Hill, Seawinds and Nepean, which could effectively and efficiently mobilise ‘early intervention’, using CSC resources.

Is it possible that a community ‘upwards’ approach could save billions of dollars from our National health budget?

This brings me to something I detest! Wastage: through so-called ‘expert’ top-down government spending programs, which are misaligned to real family and community needs.

In the State budget, the Treasurer Tim Pallas, budgeted to invest $982 million for new buildings, vital health equipment and projects to increase the capacity of our hospitals. Further into the detail we read… “The Victorian people deserve a health system they can rely on, and the Andrews Labor Government is investing in it – with a record $2.9 billion to ensure Victorians get the care they need. This significant boost targets all areas of the health system, including hospital facilities and services, elective surgery, ambulances and mental health.”

It is not easy to reconcile the difference between $2.9 billion and $982 million in the Budget overview paper. Even harder is to reconcile propaganda hyperbole with real ‘at the grass roots’ impact.

In the budget overview, the government declares it will increase support for Victorians with a mental illness and their families. Three hundred and forty six million ($346m) was allocated to mental health infrastructure and programs, including supporting young Victorians and responding to vulnerable children, families and trauma.

This includes a $59 million contribution to the redevelopment of the Orygen Youth Mental Health facility in Parkville, a major clinical and research facility for younger people across Victoria with serious mental illness, which would include youth depression.

Yet, it seems from the Victorian budget, nothing is directed to the Mornington Peninsula Shire for serious mental illness.

On the other side, looking at the Shire plans and budgets, there seem to be four logical areas in the current Shire Health and Well being Plan to cite plans to impact youth depression, and other mental issues. These are:

  • VALUE 1. QUALITY OF LIFE FOR ALL

Strategic focus under this area covers “Appropriate affordable secure housing,” and “Income security across the life cycle.” The key actions cited in the schedule are: 1. Facilitate affordable housing through implementation of the Social and Affordable Housing Policy, 2. Continue to deliver relevant services across the life cycle (e.g. youth services), 3. Undertake community needs and social impacts assessments for identified communities at risk (youth suffering and ‘at risk’ of depression), and 4. Encourage social enterprises across the Mornington Peninsula that support community enrichment through local opportunities.

  • VALUE 2. HEALTHY LIFESTYLE CHOICES

Strategic focus under this area covers “Positive mental health, responsible gambling and drinking,” “Good start in early life reaching across the life cycle,” and “Aboriginal health.” The key actions cited in the schedule are: 1.Incorporate health and well-being goals into life stage strategies (i.e., early years and active youth), and 2. Support harm minimisation policies and strategies related to drugs, alcohol, responsible gaming, tobacco control, and community safety.

  • VALUE 3. ACTIVE LOCAL COMMUNITIES

Strategic focus under this area covers “Well-skilled workforce, local employment and job pathways,” “Volunteering opportunities and enrichment,” “Socioeconomically disadvantaged communities informed and supported in life skills,” and “Active cross-generational citizen engagement in the community.” The CSC early intervention model seems to suggest these are vital elements in reducing youth depression. The key actions cited in the schedule are: 1. Develop a lifelong learning strategy with a focus on early childhood, 2. Advocate for business mentoring of young people, and 3. Invest in early childhood education across the municipality.

  • VALUE 5. SENSE OF HOPE AND BELONGING

Strategic focus under this area covers “Flourishing social and cultural connections.” The key actions cited in the schedule are: 1. Strengthen opportunities for philanthropy, sharing and goodwill across the Mornington Peninsula Shire, 2. Strengthen community inclusion (although this does not specifically mention young people who suffer depression, and their families), and 3. Build community capacity and resilience in local settings through local community planning and development projects.

In other parts of the Shire document, it also mentions “Advocate for significant changes to the Local Planning Policy Framework to reduce the negative impact of packaged liquor outlets on the Mornington Peninsula,” and “Promote livability through the Healthy by Good Design Guidelines and UNICEF Child Friendly Cities Framework.” These would also impact on the need.

When you scan the Shire budget papers, you might read:

“Improving the health and well being of communities across the peninsula extends beyond service delivery to providing infrastructure and environments that maximise participation and encourage inclusive and resilient communities.

A challenge for the Shire over the next few years will be to provide relevant services and
infrastructure, in response to changing community expectations. The Shire will continue to meet expectations, either directly or in partnership with others, with reduced costs, yet maintaining high quality service levels and standards.”

Using portion of a budgetted $7.1 million, the Shire plans community health services designed to increase the health and well being of young people. I don’t know how much of the $7.1 million is allocated to youth depression.

Also, without a budget allocation, Shire managers propose to develop “an integrated community agency response to identified disadvantaged communities/townships to ensure social inclusion…” This will be done through “four annual service provider forums per annum.”

Generally, Shire managers will also further develop the Shire Health and Wellbeing Plan.

Finally, if you delve into the budget, which many residents can’t do, you find other well-meaning initiatives named, but not budgeted.

My opinion is that despite all the planning, propaganda, and even budget allocations, the overwhelming onus for real-life youth depression will continue to fall on parents, and compassionate and kind others.

In relation to the real needs of hurting young people, and their families and community groups in the Mornington Shire, I suspect there is high probability that:

  1. Planning and budget allocations across State and Local government are severely misaligned, and
  2. Top-down Headspace-type models, i.e. one model can fit all, are severely misaligned, and
  3. The onus for youth depression falls on Peninsula parents and compassionate and kind siblings, friends and community support.

Therefore, important questions arise for Professor McGorry,

How can sufferers in the Shire benefit from early intervention, through processes that enable them to work through their depression, among their families and local community groups?

How could Headspace minimise involvement of bureaucrats, commercial interests and regulatory frameworks to maximise value that flows to sufferers, their families and their local community groups?

How can a media narrative surrounding youth depression shift from the distress of victims to recovery, well being and flourishing?

How can a media narrative surrounding youth depression inspire many capable local people to join other local people who are already causing a positive impact?

What values (and behaviour) and community assets would most minimise youth depression?

Finally, what are local elected representatives actually doing to facilitate early intervention, i.e. coordinated specialty care, to bring together community building that sees youth depression removed as a priority on the Mornington Peninsula?

About Bob Simpson

Bob is project manager of The Australian Media Engagement Project (AMEP). He believes that ethical and independent journalists are vital to the continuing freedom of Australian citizens. You could argue that In recent decades media organisations have subtly subverted journalism to their own private commercial interests, and away from an integrated sense of fairness, well being and shared prosperity in Australian society, especially for the disempowered. AMEP aims to change general media narratives towards greater fairness, well being and shared prosperity in Australia.

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