The numbers tell the story when it comes to assessing the work of headspace in the community.
In the five years since we opened the doors in 2008, the Illawarra region’s headspace centre has supported close to 3500 12-25 year olds from Wollongong and the surrounding areas.
What’s more, the headspace in Schools activities and community awareness presentations have also allowed us to reach over 2220 students and young people and 250 school teachers, counsellors and staff members from various schools in the Illawarra as well as a variety of community organisations.
While demand for the service is already high, we want to see more young people walking through the headspace door.
When young people experience a mental health problem it can have disabling effects on their progression in work, family and education.
We know that identifying at-risk young people and encouraging them to seek help at an early stage can have a dramatic effect on the prevention of future mental health problems, use of acute mental health services, as well as potential effects in other areas of life.
headspace seeks to enable young people to seek help early through a youth friendly approach and easily accessible services.
With the support of local community organisations we know we’re making a difference to the lives of many young people in Wollongong.
Much of what we have accomplished over the last five years is down to the centre’s experienced and passionate staff.
Young people are often coming in at their most vulnerable so the team at headspace Wollongong work hard to make the centre a place where young people feel safe and comfortable.
We see the whole gamut of mental health issues but have found that anxiety and pervasive sadness or depression are the major ones.
And it’s not uncommon to have both – one of our GPs, Dr John Watson, says anxiety can wear the best of us down over time into a depression.
We hear that word on the street is positive about headspace: that you will be respected and cared for at the centre.
And it seems we are becoming better known in the Illawarra community and that young people may well be presenting earlier.
That makes our job easier and the young person’s life and work easier if their life has not unravelled before they come to see us.
But we know there are lots of young people going through a tough time and not getting the support they need. We urge them to give headspace a go.
Chris Comber is headspace Wollongong’s centre manager.