Young given a helping hand

Tully Aulbrich, 16, of Newstead College, Cody Cooper, 15, of Brooks High School, Georgia Clarke, 15, of Exeter High School and Logan Piper, 17, of Newstead College. We asked them: What is the biggest issue facing youth today?
Tully Aulbrich, 16, of Newstead College, Cody Cooper, 15, of Brooks High School, Georgia Clarke, 15, of Exeter High School and Logan Piper, 17, of Newstead College. We asked them: What is the biggest issue facing youth today?

NORTHERN Tasmania's Headspace is the busiest in the nation with about 15 young people aged 12 to 25 years seeking help across Launceston and Devonport each day.

Cornerstone Youth Services chief executive Brian Wightman said the Launceston-based community organisation, federally funded to run youth health service Headspace, is extremely busy when compared to the rest of Australia.

The two centres in the North and North-West received 1545 new clients in the 2013-14 financial year and had 5666 occasions of service - a majority presenting with problems about how they felt.

"Ideally we would like to see decreasing numbers, but I think Northern Tasmania is very fortunate that we have the range of services that we do have," he said.

"We run a preventative model, but that relies on people coming through the door and I certainly believe the community needs to have a conversation about the issues that young people face.

"It is not as simple as some of the lines that are delivered by political parties when it comes to funding."

''It's choosing [as a career] what I want to do because I'm not sure, so I have just been cruising through school choosing subjects that look like they might be a bit of fun. Now I am a college student there is a bit more pressure ... and I have to really decide,'' - Tully Aulbrich, 16.

The most common age group in Launceston was people 18 to 20, which clinical services manager Kate Brennan said had increased from 15 to 17 as awareness focused more towards university and college students.

Devonport was in line with the national 15 to 17 age group statistics as people struggle with study, home life, work and relationship pressures.

Ms Brennan said mental, physical and sexual health were the main reasons young people attended Headspace.

"We are here predominantly to provide early intervention to prevent any further symptoms progressing into something more," she said.

"A lot of the presentations are young people presenting with anxiety, stress, maybe having some sleep issues and just general worries and concerns.

"We find that once they have come and spoken to us, learned some strategies to manage that stress and anxiety they are getting on with their lives and moving forward."

'"From first hand experience I think it is the bullying, discrimination and being told that you're not good enough to do what you want to do - it really sucks and hurts. You just have to accept who you are and push through it,'' - Cody Cooper, 15.

In May, she said 222 young people visited Headspace General Practitioners, for free, to address issues to do with the common cold, weight issues, body image and sexual health problems such as Sexually Transmitted Infections screening and contraception.

Ms Brennan said there had also been many homeless young people asking for help that had experienced conflict in their family environment.

"Certainly there is probably an increase in sexually transmitted diseases as there always is, but the young people are coming in an seeking help for that, which is fantastic," she said.

''The biggest issue for me personally is the pressure to succeed at school, especially to get good grades. It is something that leans into what you're going to do later in life and it is such a big deal, not just in the mind of us, but adults,'' - Georgia Clarke, 15.

"A younger person today is a lot more aware of what sexual health is about so they are coming in and seeking help, to talk about preventative measures and what's happening within their own bodies."

Mr Wightman said it is rare that someone presents with acute psychosis or is at crisis point.

He said there is scope for outreach services that could be funded by the general public.

"It would require a level of community support to assist us and we are not at a point to offer a full range of services at the moment," he said.

"I have had discussion with interested parties interested in delivering those services - it is everyone's responsibility to look after the most vulnerable in our community."

''I feel like one of the biggest issues for kids our age is accepting individuality. There is a lot of pressure to fit into a social group and to act a lot older than you are. there is this certain person you're meant to be. If you're a girl you're supposed to be pretty, petite and smart, while guys are meant to be buff,'' - Logan Piper, 17.


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