June 9, 2016

Guest contributions


My name is Lily Kingbawl and I am a refugee girl from Myanmar/Burma. I arrived in Australia in 2010, and was shocked by how different everything was. Everything here amazes me, even small things like having street lights, which may not seem like a big deal, but in Burma I didn’t even have a candle to light up at night. When I first started school, one thing I noticed was how welcoming everyone was, and how many different races there were.

After living in Banyule for four years, I met one of the Banyule Youth Services workers. The Council has since supported me in many extraordinary ways, such as helping me join one of the local soccer clubs, and helping me participate in Multicultural Day, and other events. It’s been so inspiring seeing them working and helping young people.

I participated in the Banyule Youth Summit in early May, and it helped me get to know some of the struggles that young people face today. One of these struggles is mental health.

When we say ‘mental illness’, many people think we are just talking about depression and anxiety, but there are many different influences on mental health, like bullying and self-esteem. We need to be careful of what we say to other people because sometimes we might not realise the effect our words and behaviour can have on other people. Sometimes, all it takes is a small comment to cause problems, and this can affect the mental health of the young person involved.

We all know how important it is to ‘speak up’, but some of us struggle to do so because it’s not as easy as it looks. To support others and ourselves, we need to be careful and pay more attention to the actions and voices of our peers. If you see a friend or family member acting in certain ways, be the first person to reach out to them and ask them about it. Don’t wait for them to come to you. It can be scary because you don’t want to jeopardise your friendship, or you don’t want to add problems to whatever your family might be going through, but all it takes is asking them: “do you want to talk about it?”

Everyone experiences anxieties in their lives, I definitely have. It can be hard to seek help, you can’t help but feel like a burden. One of my teachers noticed that I wasn’t concentrating in class and that I seemed to be a bit down, so he came to me and simply asked: “Lily, are you comfortable talking to me about your problems?” Being able to speak to someone was exhilarating and was like a load had been lifted off my shoulders. Being the person to to ask that difficult question can change someone’s life.

If you, or anyone you know, is experiencing mental health issues, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or visit the newly opened headspace Greensborough.

– Lily Kingbawl

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