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Youth in ACTion for suicide prevention

Beatrice Smith

Social innovator and Canberra local Maddeline Mooney was recently selected to be part of the Young Social Pioneers accelerator program run by the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) – the only candidate selected in the ACT. Beatrice Smith caught up with Maddeline to talk about her organisation Youth in ACTion for Suicide Prevention which aims to raise awareness about Youth Suicide in the ACT.

Beatrice: What do you see as your biggest hurdle to raising better awareness of youth suicide?

Maddeline: I think the biggest hurdle to raising better awareness of youth suicide is that many people still believe the common misconception that talking about suicide will somehow put the idea in someone’s head. Naturally no one wants to run the risk of making things worse, particularly when it’s a loved one, so they avoid talking about suicide. But we now have a lot of research that shows that asking someone if they’re having thoughts of suicide does not have this effect – asking someone if they’re thinking about suicide is actually likely to have a positive effect, as the person will know you care and that it’s ok to talk to you about their suicidal thoughts.

What are some of the services unique to Canberra and the ACT that people can access?

In Canberra we have headspace, that supports young people aged 12 to 25 who are experiencing mild to moderate mental health concerns and/or substance use issues. Headspace works on an early intervention model, so there is no problem too small talk to them about.

Technology can be a powerful tool to combat depression and anxiety, do you have any suggestions?

The National Institute of Mental Health Research at ANU has produced a fantastic range of, evidence based, online self-help programs to help people manage depression and anxiety, including MoodGym and e-couch. They can be used anonymously, 24 hours a day, from anywhere in the world. All programs are provided free of charge and can be accessed here.

A new app was released recently, called Mindshift, that uses evidence based strategies to help young people learn and practice anxiety coping skills. Initial review from professionals and young people are quite positive, it’s free and available on both apple devices and android smart phones.

If someone wants to become more involved in the fight against youth suicide, how can they do this?

There are lots of ways you can get involved, including:

• Knowing the warning signs of suicide and keeping an eye on the young people you interact with.
• Completing suicide prevention training such as Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (where you learn how to conduct a crisis intervention), or Youth Mental Health First Aid (where you can learn the signs and symptoms of a mental health crisis and appropriate responses).
• Volunteering with organisations such as Youth in ACTion. We’re always interested in hearing from young people who would like to join our group, and people of all ages who would like to help out with fundraising. Anyone who would like to get involved can also send us an email.

What are some of the signs of depression that everyone can keep an eye out for in our loved ones and the broader community?

Everyone experiences some signs of depression from time to time, but it’s important to keep an eye out for the following symptoms, especially if they’re lasting 2 weeks or more.
• Not doing usual enjoyable activities
• Unable to concentrate
• Withdrawing from close family and friends
• Feeling overwhelmed
• Feeling guilty
• Feeling irritable
• Feeling disappointed
• Feeling miserable
• Thinking ‘I’m a failure.’
• Thinking ‘It’s my fault.’
• Thinking ‘Nothing good ever happens to me.’
• Churning gut
• Sleep problems
• Loss or change of appetite
• Being tired all the time

If you think you or someone you know might be experiencing depression, speak to your GP, they can provide you a referral to mental health professionals that can help. For more information about signs and symptoms of depression, see Beyondblue‘s website.

What types of events does Youth in ACTion run?

At the moment Youth in ACTion is working with MindBlank to bring their interactive mental health-themed theatre performances to Canberra. MindBlank will produce a custom made self-care themed script and perform it to secondary school and university students. During the performance the audience views the performance twice, the first time without interruption and with a negative outcome, then during a second time through the audience will be invited to change the outcome of the story by directing how and when in the story the characters engage in self-care, to produce a positive outcome. We hope to hold our first MindBlank self-care performance later this year.

We are also in the early stages of developing a workshop that teaches the practical skills young people need to self-care. Through these workshops young people will learn their own unique early warning signs of stress, develop their personalised self-care plan, how to recognise when they might need professional help as well as where they can seek help.

Do you have any suggestions as to simple ways people can ‘self care’ if they’re feeling down?

Everyone’s self-care is different, so one person’s self-care might be someone else’s worst nightmare. The key to self-care is to listen to your body and do what you think will give you back your energy/motivation. For some people this may involve physical activity, spending time with friends or talking about what’s making them feel down. For other people quiet time alone, reading, meditating, cooking or crafting is what they need when they’re feeling down. There is no wrong way to self-care, what’s important is to take time to do something you enjoy.

You can find more information about Youth in ACTion on their Facebook page.

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Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Editorial Coordinator involves eating, drinking and interviewing people – sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise you’ll find her at the movies, ordering a cheese board or ordering a cheese board at the movies.

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