‘Community and Identity are at the heart of everything’: CMY YAG at Orygen Youth Mental Health Symposium

April 11, 2019

Last month, CMY’s Youth Advisory Group members Swathi Shanmukhasundaram, Ali Noura and Sophia Eyob joined keynote speakers Professor Patrick McGorry AO – Executive Director at Orygen and Professor Andrew Chanen – Director of Clinical Services at Orygen at the national symposium, ‘Rising to the Challenge: Creating Mental Health Services for Young People with Complex Needs’.

Swathi, Sophia and Ali presented their perspectives on ‘Mental Health services for culturally and linguistically diverse young people’ in front of an audience of 300 service providers and primary health networks.

Ali shared his experience of having a limited number of people to speak to in a time of crisis, stating that his brother and sister were his main supports. Mental health care and support ‘starts with a conversation’, he said.

Swathi spoke about the restrictions that growing up in a conservative Indian family has on her ability to speak about mental health and how this impacts family. ‘Community and identity are at the heart of everything,' she said, while shedding light on the stigma around speaking about mental health in her community, where it was considered a taboo and a sign of weakness. 

Sophia, as a newly-arrived refugee in the last two years, shared insights of how members of her community are affected by the trauma of relocation, lived experience of violence and unsafe living conditions. She shared her perspective on how this can affect newly arrived young people’s experience of mentally ill health and their ability to trust mental health service providers.

The audience promptly jumped to their feet after the young people were done speaking. “Swathi, Ali and Sophia were an absolute highlight of the day,” said an audience member, “we heard so many attendees talking about their presentations even in the late afternoon!’’

PHOTOGRAPH: YAG members Swathi, Sophia and Ali with Professor Andrew Chanen from Orygen (Director of Clinical Services), image courtesy: Bernie Cram, Orygen

For more information on CMY’s Youth Advisory Group, please click here.

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