It’s Australia Day today and I am extremely happy and proud this year. Even more than other years. [No it doesn’t have to do with the cricket. For once. Neither does it have to do with me getting citizenship…been busy there but hope to get it sometime this year]
Every Australia Day, an Australian is awarded the Australian of the Year. Steve Waugh has been one (2004). Pat Rafter has been another (2002). So has Mark Taylor (1999…which by the way I find hard to believe!) But this year, in its 50th year, it has gone to someone relatively unknown. Someone who is not involved in climate change or similar trending issues. But someone who has been lobbying in a field that is close to my heart. An area I am passionate about.
The Australian of the Year for 2010 is Professor Patrick McGorry.
Who, I hear you ask.
Well, Professor Patrick McGorry is a psychiatrist who has been lobbying for better treatment for young people with mental health problems. And I for one, am stoked!
Professor McGorry is a psychiatrist who has been advocating early intervention services to assist young people with mental health problems better and thereby prevent outcomes such as suicide. He is also the director of Headspace across the country which is a mental health service for young people between 12 and 24 years of age. [By the way, Headspace is amazing and I’d love to work there someday!]
Hopefully, this means there will be more funding from the Federal and State governments towards youth mental health. It amazes me that the government does not shell out as much money for mental health as it does for say, transport [Sydneysiders will know…I’m referring to the metro!]. The young people of today are the future of tomorrow. And I can tell you first hand, in this day and age, mental health issues are all the more prevalent. Blame it on more knowledge or lack of social support or social contact or too much media exposure…any way you go, the end result is that mental health is a concern. And not much is being done about it. At least not from up above.
The onset of mental health problems seems to be occurring at a younger age. And no, I don’t mean just ADHD or behaviour problems (those are overdiagnosed in my opinion). Kids as young as 5 are being diagnosed with eating disorders. I myself have worked with 7 year olds suffering from generalised anxiety (worries about the future, performance, health, wellbeing of loved ones etc) or performance anxiety. In 1997, depression was present in 3 percent of children and 5 percent of adolescents. That was 13 years ago. I am willing to bet my bottom dollar it has drastically increased.
And as for teenagers, don’t even get me started. I know I have ranted about them in the past. But I actually prefer working with teenagers than the little children. Teenagers go through a lot of shit these days. Bullying is a lot worse than it has ever been. Social support is a lot less. Peer pressure a lot more. Add puberty and raging hormones to the mix and voila! You have one messed up teen. There aren’t enough services out there for young people. Especially economically disadvantaged young people. I can say that because I’ve tried referring some of them and there’s nowhere to go. What people don’t seem to understand is that teenagers also suffer from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, phobias, emotional regulation problems, eating disorders etc. And while it’s easy to tell them to “get over it”, it’s not actually easy for them to do so. They need therapy. They need someone to provide them with strategies. And most importantly, they need someone to listen and normalise what they are going through.
We are always told ‘prevention is better than cure‘. So why don’t we apply this adage to mental health? When it comes to physical health, we generally know what to do or what not to do. But does anyone really know what to do to prevent serious mental health problems? Of course not! Mental health awareness needs to be increased. And we need more individuals like Professor McGorry. And of course, funds from the government wouldn’t hurt!
So once again, I’m extremely happy today. I just wish I had given my citizenship test around November-December (I couldn’t because of work and then the change of jobs…and I’ve had to put it off for a while now) But even without the citizenship, I’m a proud Australian today. I am also a proud health professional today. :p
And if I am able to do even half of what Professor McGorry is doing for young people in my lifetime as a psychologist, I will die happy.
Until next time,