The Northern Territory news Sat 21 May 2022
The Northern Territory news; NewspaperNT
Community newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin.; Australian newspapers -- Northern Territory -- Darwin.
News Corp Australia
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News Corp Australia
Saturday May 21 2022 WEEKEND 27 V1 - NTNE01Z01MA mental health has been on a very, very slippery slope for many, many years long before we knew what the word Covid meant But the interesting thing about that is, often from a counsellor lens, we understand their conversation is about mental health or mental wellbeing but it might actually be attributed in their storytelling to something else. What does she mean by that? Teens will call to talk about the stress they are feeling around study or a friendship fallout, and how that is impacting them. Various areas of their lives sort of rise up to cause that mental health distress, Tucker says. With teen girls, issues work together. Social media, body image and eating disorders all get mixed up. With mental health, its the same. Causes are complex and multi-factorial. But certainly experts point one finger at social media. Mental health and social media you cant talk about one without the other, Abel says. She paints a picture where social media can be the source and impact girls through misinterpreting communications, bullying, placing high expectations on themselves, eating disorders and body image problems, isolation, disconnection. Whats happening online from friendship issues to fear of judgment can then cause offline responses, like refusing to go to school. Tucker also raises anecdotally how strong their sense of themselves is, the strength of their connections and their own expectations. It comes back to Who am I? and How do I exist in the world?, she says. What keeps her awake at night are the nations suicide rates and the suicidal thoughts of our teens. It is very common that people will encounter thoughts of worthlessness and being a burden, not wanting to be alive anymore. We have a real privilege being able to be there to participate in those conversations and to be able to safely talk about something. What keeps me awake is the thought that someone would be navigating that alone. The mental health challenges nominated by girls, and backed strongly by experts, are not being met. Whether it is year-long waiting lists for psychologists, or intervention systems, or rural services or school wellbeing programs, they are falling well short of what is needed. Psychologist Laura Lee works in Geelong, only a short distance from Melbourne, where a number of young people have taken their lives over recent years. What I would say about suicidality in regional areas is that its chronically under-resourced. Were certainly not a rural area by any stretch. But its still really hard for people in regional areas to get the support they need when they need it. It is a double whammy too, because a suicide in a regional area ricochets around the school and broader community. How school communities deal with mental health issues across the spectrum is crucial. Thats for a few reasons: teens spend most of their waking hours at school; many of the signs someone is struggling might surface during that time; and schools are filled with students who might be struggling. That impacts their friendship groups and their classes. The mental health presentation might vary. But the need to address it is universal. Many girls pointed out that there is a wide acceptance among peers that they are struggling, and that acceptance has destroyed the stigma attached to mental health challenges. But the girls say that, despite that, and even with schools accepting it is a big issue, they are not changing structures in a way that eases the problems. Others were prevented by long waiting lists for psychologists, the expense and their parents not believing in that sort of thing. I wish I could talk to someone about eating. I know I have a problem, one girl said. And that one answer points to a frightening epidemic unfolding among our teens. At one inner-city school, girls are unpacking their lunch. Theyre sitting in a circle. The formal is nearing, so the focus is on dresses and partners, nails and hair. But its the food theyre about to consume that perhaps points more to how they see beauty, and the body image issue confronting educators and parents and health professionals. A lettuce leaf, wrapped around grated carrot. Three pieces of lettuce and a few slices of cucumber. Carrot and the tiniest bit of hummus. One girls lunch is bigger than those of her peers. She has olives and tomatoes, as well. And thats the subject of the chat. That is common, a student, from another school, says. Its not talked about. Its the big issue that no one talks about. Its such a mental thing. No one understands it. Olympic gold medallist and world recordholder Libby Trickett, OAM, has a message for teen girls, born of a lived experience. She remembers being 16 and not yet having discovered elite swimming. I was probably in the process of getting better, but I hadnt 100 per cent committed to swimming in my mind. Shed seen her older brother drinking and partying, and decided that was the way to find friends. I was drinking and going to different parties, and that continued until the end of Grade 12, she says. Just after drinking too much at Schoolies, she raced in the World Cup and recorded personal best times. That was the moment that I needed. I then wanted to commit to that. Id seen the path my family my brother specifically had gone down and I didnt want that. She didnt understand the grip anxiety and depression had on her back then, but as a mother she now sees that the drinking and partying was an attempt to fit in, to make boys like her, and she found her value in that. If a boy liked me, then it meant I must be okay, she says. Thats what she thought. So she understands how 16 and 17 year olds havent figured everything out. Life is a marathon though, she wants girls to know. Trickett also wants them to know shes now studying, at 36. She started off with a Bachelor of Arts, then a Bachelor of Communication and is now doing a Bachelor of Counselling. It takes time. You might start with one thing and then realise your passion lies elsewhere and thats okay. Kids need to understand that. Young women need to understand that but also parents need to understand that. Its wise advice; life is not run in a straight line. We all need to be adaptable and understand that experiences will change expectations and that resetting goals can be valuable both personally and professionally. This is an edited extract of L Platers by Madonna King (Hachette Australia, $33), out June 1. the girls are not ok
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