by KATE LEAVER
You wouldn’t think teenage girls would need much coaching in melodrama. They’re predisposed to it. They’re naturals when it comes to scandal-mongering, and they converse in bits of gossip. But teaching drama to girls in years seven and eight is truly one of the happiest challenges I’ve undertaken.
It was in that classroom, coaxing the girls to improvise, write scripts, develop characters and sort through their feelings with an audience, that I observed the delicate process of Teenage Self-Discovery close-range.
With my Mother Hen maternal instinct on high alert, I was always on the lookout for signs that one of my girls might be struggling. I adored them, and despaired at the thought that any one mightn’t know what to do if they were depressed, or considering self-harm. I remember so well, the alternating fragility and strength of adolescence.
It’s an immense relief to me to know that if approaching an adult or a friend is too much for them, these days teenagers can get support from the privacy, and even anonymity if they need it, of their internet connection.
Things have changed since I was a teenager. A decade ago, you had to speak to real-life doctors or keep your suffering to yourself. Decades before that, ‘depression’ was a dirty, shameful word rarely uttered. Whiling away my homework time on MSN Messenger was the most constructive thing I did online. But now! To think! There’s the option to seek help and find information online.
It’s a beautiful thing, to see government money go where it’s needed most.
With the National Disability Insurance Scheme stalling, as state and federal politicians scrounge around for funding and play with priorities, it’s nice to know that the mental health sector is getting some attention. It gives me such hope, to see the abundance of online support for young people with mental illness themselves, or advice on how to help someone who does.
It’s brilliant, actually.
The evidence is there: We know that 1 in 4 Australians will grapple with mental illness this year. We know that 75% of these people won’t be treated properly, or even seek help. We know that mental illness is grossly under-reported by young people, and we know how utterly isolating it can be to deal with depression. Addressing the mental health and wellbeing of young people is one of the most important things we can possibly do. It’s urgent.