Today is R U OK Day – just one of three mental health awareness days taking place this month (Child Protection Week was September 1 to 7, and World Suicide Prevention Day was September 10).
With so much attention on mental health right now, particularly for young people, you may be feeling particularly motivated to make a difference. But what can you do to help?
Tracy Adams is the CEO of yourtown and Kids Helpline, two organisations doing incredible work to create brighter futures for young people.
“There should be no wrong doors to accessing help but we need to be working together,” says Tracy. “Early intervention, greater access to services and support for families need to be prioritised.”
Kids Helpline is Australia’s only free confidential 24/7 national children’s counselling and support service. Recently, they made the alarming announcement that 51% of requests for help went unanswered in the first six months of this year due to funding shortfall.
The number of attempts to contact Kids Helpline increased by almost 2,500 over the past six months, and visits to the website grew by 323,000 in the same amount of time – 59% more than the same period last year.
“A quarter of all counselling sessions now have to do with mental health concerns and one in ten are a young person presenting with an undiagnosed mental illness,” says Tracy. “To cope with increasing counselling demand, Kids Helpline recently increased the opening hours for web chat to 24/7, resulting in an additional 3,108 attempts and 1,723 contacts in the first half of this year.”
In order to meet the ever-growing need for their services, Kids Helpline requires an additional $5 million annually – with this money, they could employ additional professional counselling staff to try to meet the demand.
“We want young people to get the very best service they can, particularly with the issues they are contacting us about,” says Tracy. “We are extremely concerned that we are unable to answer every contact for help, but we encourage children and young people to keep trying to contact us if even if they can’t get through the first time. It is vitally important that they do.”
For some, connecting with Kids Helpline has been a life-saving experience – for others, it’s about practical help and support at the critical moment they need someone to listen.
Whether they require one-off or ongoing support, children and young people can seek help from Kids Helpline before things escalate and become much bigger issues. For many children and young people, Kids Helpline is their only source of support.
At present, Kids Helpline Kids is 69% self-funded by the yourtown art union, donors and grants – but they need your help. When you donate to Kids Helpline, all of your money goes straight towards helping them connect with more children.