Having the conversation: The YMCA Youth Summit on mental health and wellbeing

  • Date: 29 May 2018
  • Category: News

Pictured: Amelia Morris sharing her story during a panel discussion at the YMCA Youth Summit 2018

Yesterday over 390 students, young people and professionals flooded into the Melbourne Arts Centre to spend a day discussing youth mental health and wellbeing. The inaugural YMCA Youth Summit was run by YMCA Victoria and YMCA Australia in partnership with VicHealth, and aimed to open up the important and necessary conversations around youth mental health needed today in Victoria.

With currently one in four young people experiencing mental illness, the Summit focused on a key topic often missing from the conversation: mental wellness. The one-day event discussed the importance of building resilience in young people and preventing mental illness and poor mental health before it occurs.

“The YMCA Youth Summit wrapped up to be an incredible event with over 390 people attending and showed that in a time of unprecedented mental health concerns, mental wellbeing needs to be included in the conversation,” said Laura Munns, YMCA Youth Summit Project Manager.

For the morning session activists and experts were invited to talk about mental health and wellbeing and provide answers to how we can help more young people avoid the pain of mental illness in the first place.

Claire Naughtin, a Senior Research Consultant at CSIRO, set the scene as she presented five megatrends and their impact on young people’s resilience and social connections in the next 20 years. Naughtin was then joined on stage by industry specialists Matthew Hamilton, Tony LaMontagne, Melissa Weinberg and Amelia Morris to further delve into how their various areas of research contribute to the topic.

A special mention goes out to Amelia Morris for sharing her own experience of struggling with mental illness, seeking help, overcoming stigma and coming out the other end stronger and able to share her story to provide hope and reassurance for others.

The rest of the morning session saw Professor Helen Cahill speak about the importance of teaching social and emotional skills in schools, Kristen Moelle-Saxone presented VicHealth’s latest findings on social connections and mental wellbeing, and Louisa Shepard talked about VicHealth’s Top Spin, an initiative striving to reduce harmful alcohol consumption in young people.

Millipede, a game design agency, was also invited to discuss their new digital game experience that aims to help maintain the resilience of young people during the transition from education to employment.

“It’s great to see there is a shift happening from curing mental illness to actually preventing it by building resilience in young people and focusing on mental wellness,” said one participant.

Just before lunch, high school students and other young people from all over the state arrived and were invited to grab some food, listen to lively tunes from music duo Exy and explore some of the awesome booths at the event from Headspace, YacYiv, Mission Australia, WhyNot?, VicHealth’s Story Pod, Minus 18 and YMCA Youth Services.

The second half of the day was run by the people most affected by the issue: young people themselves. Passionate and inspiring young speakers Rachael Stevens, Caitlin Figueiredo, Laura Pintur, Jason Ball, Sammy Veall and Toby Bedford left their audience speechless as they shared their personal stories and perspectives on the changes Victoria needs to make. Between talks the attendees were moved by great performances from musicians Adrian Eagle and Dylan Joel.

“Sometimes it’s hard to see the bigger picture and hearing some of the amazing stories from the speakers reminds you that you can get through the tough times,” said a student.

Wrapping up the day on a high, young people were invited to choose one of four workshops that focused on building resilience and mental wellbeing. The topics included community connectedness and social impact, what success and perseverance look like for young people, mindfulness and dealing with stress and how physical wellbeing sways our mood.

The YMCA Youth Summit facilitated conversation that challenged the way we think about and approach youth mental health, conversation that has never been more important.

“The event strengthened YMCA Victoria’s partnership with VicHealth and we look forward to working together in co-designing opportunities for young people and adults to discuss mental health and wellbeing,” said Laura Munns.

A huge thank you to all that attended and contributed!