By Mikayla van Loon
As the mental health crisis grows in the Yarra Ranges, the establishment of integrated services like the Lilydale Youth Hub are now more essential than ever.
The announcement of the Hub was first made in 2019 but in the last two to three months, the consortium of services has begun hosting telehealth appointments for young people aged 12 to 25.
Bringing together support services including Inspiro, Cire Services, Anchor, Oonah Health & Community Services and Eastern Community Legal Centre, the Hub aims to give each young person the holistic support they need to get through the challenges they are facing.
For case manager Tia Harris, who has worked in welfare in the eastern suburbs for 15 years, having a hub of services based in Lilydale will allow more people in the rural areas of the shire to access the services they need.
“This is a space I think everybody’s been wanting for a very long time. When you think of the Ranges, it’s vast, so just having something in between here and it used to be Ringwood,” she said.
“We are the Hub, it is going to be the mecca, all the services will be here for all young people in the Ranges.”
Prior to the Hub opening, Ms Harris said from many places in the shire the public transport was preventing young people from seeking help but case managers are able to provide transport to doctors appointments and other essentials.
With peer support counsellors, one-on-one guidance, mentoring, and case management, the Hub has a soft approach to mental health, by using relatability and flexibility to engage a troubled young person.
In saying that, mental health lead Joseph Niroshkumar is a trained psychiatric nurse and has worked in mental health for many years in the hospital system, allowing him and the team to assess a young person’s mental stability.
Mr Niroshkumar said some young people may present to the Hub not identifying as having a mental health concern but other stressors in their life could eventually lead to anxiety or depression.
“A person may come here and say ‘I don’t have a mental health issue, I’m at risk of losing my home’,” he said.
“That worry could eventually turn into anxiety, that in turn if it’s not treated could become depression and then that person could end up in a different situation, so it needs to be addressed.”
Not only is the Hub trying to identify a person’s concern but also what their strengths are to help them through their current situation, whether that be finding them more secure housing or finding positive coping mechanisms for dealing with a trauma.
Ms Harris said a lot of the support case managers are doing at the moment is psychosocial, as many young people have been isolated during the Covid-19 lockdowns.
“Perhaps they’ve dropped out of school, they haven’t been able to engage in services, so they might have done counseling at headspace but don’t have phone credit, so they can’t actually go and do a telehealth appointment with headspace or with anybody else,” she said.
“So that’s really hard and they’ve become quite isolated where they are.”
Building connections with these young people, Mr Niroshkumar said is quite important as it then builds rapport and trust, as well as encourages others to seek assistance.
”One in four people suffers from mental health in some shape or form so it’s very important to recognise early, work with them,” he said.
“Sometimes you need to have clinical interventions on top of the psychosocial intervention so it’s important to have that holistic approach.”
While the current situation of mental health is worrying for Mr Niroshkumar, he also said he is quite proud of how young people have sought help and have made connections during the pandemic.
Ms Harris is grateful to have a one stop shop for mental health, that will have an open door policy for people to use the Hub as a safe haven to charge a phone or make a sandwich but also combines all services so that young people don’t have to repeat their traumas.
The Lilydale Youth Hub is currently doing outreach and telehealth appointments, as well as taking referrals with the hope of opening up when restrictions ease in a few weeks.