Riding on top of the waves – breaking down barriers to accessing mental health services.

The first Harmony Day was launched in 1999 by the then NSW MP Dr. Peter Wong. This was an initiative in respond to Pauline Hanson’s 1996 maiden speech at Parliament describing how Australia being ‘swamped’ by Asians.  According to the 2016 Census, nearly half (49 per cent) of Australians were born overseas or have at least one parent who was. Mandarin came first as the most spoken language other than English.  Eighty-five per cent of Australians agree multiculturalism has been good for Australia (check out the Australian Bureau of Statistics website for more details).


I hope those of you facing reduced freedom to move around are still keeping well. Exactly 12 months ago, CFS held an ‘Out of Hibernation’ gathering to celebrate regaining our liberty after 3 months of COVID-19 Pandemic Lockdown!

Over the years, I have learnt to cultivate a ‘growth mindset’. Growth is one of the foundational values of CFS and referenced in our logo. A growth mindset means always trying to reflect on the ‘lessons learnt from a situation, mistake or time of adversity, instead of focusing on loss or negatives’. For me, one silver lining to living through the changes, restrictions, loss and fears of this once-in-a-century pandemic is that everyone is talking about their mental health. The World Health Organisation defines health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Our monthly CFS newsletter has been co-produced since May 2020 – this is the 15th issue. If you are looking for some well-being tips, consider checking out some back issues and the ‘Stress-less’ postcards at the bottom of this page. We always love hearing about other peoples’ well-being tips – if you have something to share, please get in touch!

Since Dec 2019 – when COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan, China – there has been a significant amount of research about the origins, nature and best treatment of the virus. Alongside the medical approach, public health researchers have also focused on the social and emotional impacts of the pandemic, both collectively and individually. The forecast is an increase in mental health issues across all age groups, but a significant drop in wellbeing in young people. It appears that for young people in particular, losing access to casual employment opportunities has a negative impact on their mental health. A new study* surveyed more than 1000 young Australians and reported that the pandemic has been linked with widespread mental illness in a sample of young people aged 18-24 years.

Young people … who had secure employment, such as permanent positions, had the best mental health. Those in less secure employment, like casual workers, had the worst mental health. This is concerning for young people globally because they are more likely to be in precarious employment.”

*Oswald TK, Rumbold AR, Kedzior SGE, Kohler M, Moore VM. Mental Health of Young Australians during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Exploring the Roles of Employment Precarity, Screen Time, and Contact with Nature. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021; 18(11):5630.

Results from this study highlight “that young adults require dedicated mental health services to deal with current burden, but should also be supported through a range of preventive strategies which target mental health risk factors, like precarious employment, and enhance protective factors, such as urban green infrastructure.”

This is why CFS is striving to provide pre-apprentice opportunities for young people, and to offer real world experience, connection and skills. We want to focus on how young people can flourish and grow in this new climate in which we find ourselves.

While many people are now experiencing social isolation and loneliness (“we’re all in this together!”), we must remember that social withdrawal is also a feature of clinical depression. It is so important to understand the signs and symptoms of when a low mood may have developed into something more serious. I myself know too well how social withdrawal impacts my wellbeing and – along with other features – often signals that my mental health is starting to deteriorate. When I start to notice this, I have learnt to intervene early and put my recovery and wellbeing plan in place. This is why CFS advocates for the whole community to play a part in supporting young people facing mental health challenges.

How could you help? Giant ‘ASK RUOK?’ posters can be seen on bus stops everywhere in Metropolitan Sydney. Perhaps if you see a person looking a little sad or lost, you may ASK ‘RUOK?’   


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