Making the link to seek support

Teens don''t often seek help - but to be able to, they need to know where to get it.

AS Victorian students return to the classroom this week there are fears of an impending youth crisis.

Months of isolation, little peer contact and limited access to support systems has seen an increased in the number of young people experiencing anxiety and mental health issues.

With that comes a heightened concern of a major surge in youth suicide.

Because of this, it’s important that all students know there is help available and where to get it.

Teens don”t often seek help – but to be able to, they need to know where to get it.

In a world-first, a school-based innovative health promotion intervention, ‘MAKINGtheLINK’, has shown to be effective in teaching adolescents how to seek help from health professionals for mental health and substance use problems, as well as reducing stigmatising attitudes among peers.

The intervention focuses on exploring the barriers to seeking help, including perceived stigma and embarrassment, difficulty recognising symptoms and a preference for self-reliance.

It also focuses on teaching students the skills to overcome these barriers, support their peers and encourage professional help-seeking.

Director of Turning Point and the Monash Addiction Research Centre (MARC), Professor Dan Lubman, led the development of MAKINGtheLINK, and said given many young people experiencing mental illness don’t access health services.

Which highlights the importance of MAKINGtheLINK in addressing low rates of formal help-seeking among adolescents.

“Equipping adolescents with the knowledge and skills to support themselves and their peers is crucial given mental illness is so widespread, and even more so now because of the COVID-19 global health crisis,” he said.”

“Even in a post COVID-19 world, it is not yet known what the implications will be to the mental health of adolescents, and looking out for each other will be vital.

Professor Lubman said the overall findings of the studies highlight the value of providing skills-based wellbeing programs to young people within the school setting, and indicate that MAKINGtheLINK makes a substantial impact to existing early intervention and prevention efforts.

“Implementing MAKINGtheLINK in secondary schools across the nation provides an opportunity to respond to the breadth of adolescent mental health issues and youth suicide in our community, by providing an evidence-based intervention that equips young people with the skills and confidence to seek out timely, quality help,” he said.

The trials were funded by a grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council.