December 1, 2016

Taylor Carre-Riddell

nik_7383The Greensborough Headspace headquarters is tucked away on the promenade near the WaterMarc centre. I’m greeted by the Headspace Greensborough’s Community Engagement Practitioner, Liz Wyndham. We enter an open, sunlit room filled enough colourful cushions to please any Melbourne hipster.  The positive vibe this place has is mind-blowing.

We chat about mental health, stigma, and the organisation. The Headspace centre is run by Mind Australia, which, as the lead agency for the centre, and takes care of the centres management, including ensuring quality and evidence based mental health services. The Headspace program itself is a part of the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, which acts as “an overarching body” that guides the “promoting, messaging and advocating” of Headspace, as well as “support to the Headspace centres, through training and resources.” This body oversees that the “messages, resources and information for young people” Headspace Greensborough and the other centres deliver, ensuring they’re “consistent, accessible, and recognisable.” It sounds like a business mantra- to get their products and services to all 12-25 year olds in the area.


Services at Headspace

I think what separates Headspace in its ‘marketing’ campaign is that Liz emphasised that each of the 100 Headspace centres nationwide are unique, and creates trust with the young people who access its services in the area. Liz explains how the Headspaces services go beyond work:  young lives are at stake here.

Each young person is treated uniquely treated and cared for. This goes beyond treating ill mental health, and includes “providing real opportunities for young people to ensure the centre is relevant and a friendly and welcoming space”.  The connection between the workers and the young people goes far beyond good service and a smile. For example, the different services together, including “family therapists, clinicians, nurses (and) AOD (Alcohol and other Drug) Workers all work together.”

Mental Health Maintenance

Part of their challenge is how Headspace attempts to reach to young people, who either can’t or don’t know how to access their help. Liz says that there has been a significant shift in mental health strategy, “to raise awareness …about protective factors, (alongside) just being out and visible in the community.”

Protective factors are any element in life that increases your wellbeing. Liz tells me one good daily strategy for increasing your general wellbeing include: “sleep and physical activity… (being) mindful, (and having) connection to community.”

These things seem simple enough, things many of us hear all the time, but what really stuck out to me was the really simple things included sunlight and “balancing competing responsibilities.”  Time management can be a hellish creature, but it’s the simple concept of just being able to get through your day with a spring still in your step by the end of it can act as one of the biggest protective factors to mental health.


If you are thinking of reaching out for help…

Of course, there are still vulnerable young people out there who need some professional help. They understandably need some guidance navigating around services like the one Headspace offers. Here, Liz offers a realistic metaphor; “…it’s easy to want to retreat under the doona, (and) say leave me alone.” But the hardest part, like most things in this life, is starting something. But the process of accessing services is fair from a plunge into the abyss, in fact Liz says that there are people “to walk alongside you” at every step! It seems to have come full circle: I know why Liz and Headspace at large put things like “trust (and) consistency” at the forefront of their campaign. After all, “the brain is an amazing thing,” and by everyone working together, everyone can benefit from positive mental health.

– Taylor Carre-Riddell

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