A MANNINGHAM Youth Services project is set to launch next month in a bid to offer guidance and hope for Warrandyte teenagers affected by mental illness.
The String of Hope aims to encourage young people talk to about mental illness and reduce the stigma attached to mental health issues.
It’s a taboo topic, but with research figures showing one in four young people living with a mental illness, it can’t be ignored.
What started as a youth photography experiment, highlighting the prevalence of mental illness among young people, has blossomed into a multi-faceted project with school visits, a website and a festival in the works.
The String of Hope is being led by a group of dedicated youth volunteers. The group of 15 – from Warrandyte and surrounding areas – are determined to create a safe environment for teenagers to talk about mental health issues; in the schoolyard and online.
“The fact that String of Hope has been envisioned and led by young volunteers is this project’s biggest strength,” volunteer Lauren Lowe tells the Diary. “No one under- stands what young people are going through better than young people themselves.”
The String of Hope website will provide a platform for young people to share personal stories of mental illness and connect with others. The
site aims to arm teens with information about mental illness and direct them to the relevant support services in the area.
“Projects like the String of Hope are essential in an era where mental health is too often neglected and stigma- tised. This is especially true for younger generations, with poor mental health being one of the top ranking issues fac- ing Australian teens. We love the String of Hope because it empowers these young people to take control of their mental health and talk about their struggles and progress,” Lowe says.
The project has already launched in schools in the district with Warrandyte High School the first to experience the education sessions.
“Students participated in positive mental health activities, sports and music. They actively discussed and shared positive mental health strategies with the facilitators and each other. Lots of them seemed excited and engaged,” Manningham YMCA employee Kim Nguyen says.
The String of Hope team is putting their months of hard work on display at a festival next month during Mental Health Week. There’ll be activities, live music, food, a photography exhibition and more.