Mental Health Forum targets whole Upper SE | PHOTOS

NARACOORTE Independent Learning Centre's highly anticipated Mental Health Forum has been hailed a major success.

Roughly 800 students, teachers, parents and members of the public attended the Naracoorte Town Hall last Wednesday to learn more about mental health and well-being.

Over the course of the day over 600 students from Years 7-12 enjoyed wandering around 21 stalls and activities set up to promote the services available in the Upper SE.

They came from all over the district - Keith, Bordertown, Mundulla, Kingston, Penola Padthaway, Frances, Millicent, Mount Gambier, Lucindale and Naracoorte.

It was an opportunity for the youth to speak to representatives from a variety of local organisations, increasing their awareness about what services are available.

Then in the evening about 160 people gathered to listen to psychologist Andrew Fuller.

He is well known for his work with young people and mental health issues and kept everyone engaged as he spoke on "Building Resilient Families".

A group of 10 ILC students were responsible for organising the event as part of a Year 11 subject.

They spent a semester planning every detail to ensure it ran smoothly.

Campus manager Tammy Schinckel said she was extremely happy with how well the event was received by all who attended.

"The feedback from the services and organisations that were set up (at the mental health forum in the day) was that they were really pleased.

"They were all really stoked with how much the children interacted and how well it was all set up."

The forum was possible through a $10,000 grant from Innovative Community Action Network.

Before the ILC'S Mental Health Forum, 409 students in four primary schools and two high schools from around the Upper SE were asked to complete a survey to find out how much they knew about mental health and gauge their improved knowledge after the event.

When asked the question "What is, in your own words, mental health?", 30 per cent of participants had no response or understanding.

Answers included something wrong with the brain that has no cure, the stability of a person's mind and something related to a traumatic or sad experience.

Asked to list five mental illnesses, the overwhelming majority of responses identified at least one. Almost 50 per cent suggested depression, 23 per cent anxiety and 17 per cent schizophrenia.

Forty-nine percent of students could not name a single mental health service in the area, revealing a distinct lack of awareness of where young people could access support.

When asked what the biggest mental health issue in the Upper SE was, 65 per cent of respondents were unable to identify any at all.

Students completed the same survey again after the Mental Health Forum. Results are still being collated.