Network and Learning Meeting - August 2017

Network and Learning Meeting - August 2017
Brad Dunn

In August Brad Dunn, a highly experienced youth worker specializing in youth development and community capacity building, spoke on “Mentoring Young People with Mental Health Issues”. This meeting was the first in a series to be supported by Port Waratah Coal Services.

Brad’s presentation began with sobering statistics on youth and mental illness:
• 3% of Australians aged 4-17 have experienced an affective disorder
• 14% of children and adolescents aged 4-17 have experienced a mental disorder
• Suicide accounts for the death of more young people than car accidents.

While it may be challenging, there are many reasons to believe that youth with a mental health challenge can benefit from a mentoring relationship.

Youth with mental health challenges often have histories that include trauma. The level of interpersonal trauma and its impact on a young person’s attachment style could impact the mentoring relationship. This makes it much harder for the young person to consistently engage in a mentoring relationship and gain benefit from it.

Consistency and the concept of ‘being there’ during crisis situations or when symptoms emerge is an important component for mentoring programs. The mentor must not panic and flee out of fear of doing or saying something wrong. In fact, leaving the relationship at this point may make things worse for the young person. Having someone who is there for them emotionally, encouraging them, and “showing up for them” helps individuals feel connected and more motivated to pursue their goals and adhere to their treatment regimens. For mentors, training programs such as ASIST, SafeTalk or Youth Mental Health First Aid are ideal.