28.2 C
Byron Shire
February 3, 2023

Young people and our mental health in the Byron Shire: where can we go?

Latest News

Go Thistles!

Lismore Thistles Soccer Club has launched the Thistles Acceleration Program, in the process becoming the city’s only player development academy. 

Other News

V-Day returns to Byron Bay, February 14

A mass global action, One Billion Rising, which aims to end violence against women and children, is planned for V-Day on February 14, Main Beach, Byron Bay from 7am.

Looking forward, looking back with Jeff Johnson

Long term independent Ballina Shire Councillor Jeff Johnson reflects on the challenges of the past year, and his priorities for 2023.

Lismore trial of recycled crushed glass in concrete

A trial to use recycled crushed glass in concrete as a replacement for sand will be taking place in Lismore at the Lismore Recycling & Recovery Centre.

Go Thistles!

Lismore Thistles Soccer Club has launched the Thistles Acceleration Program, in the process becoming the city’s only player development academy. 


What have they done to our Vinnies here in Mullum? They’ve killed it! It has reopened and it is...

Only nine weeks to Bluesfest and 18 new artists announced

Easter is on its way and that means Bluesfest is only nine weeks away. 

Scout Wallen

Growing up in the northern rivers has had many upsides: the beautiful natural landscape, vibrant communities and a warm feeling of acceptance.

However, living in a regional area has had its downsides.

Young people who live in Byron Bay and surrounding towns lack one of the most important health services: mental health assistance.

One in four young people aged between 15-19 are suffering from a serious mental illness, as according to a 2017 report.

We are being encouraged more and more to reach out, but sometimes it can be a struggle to find the right places to seek help.

Being a young adult living in Byron Bay, when I first began to suffer with anxiety, I quickly began to realise the lack of immediate resources we have locally.

Even though I had the support of my friends and family, I was at a loss as to where I could turn to for medical intervention.

We know that 75 per cent of mental health issues develop before the age of 25, so it is imperative to be able to intervene at the early stages to stop the issues from progressing. 

Member for Ballina Tamara Smith is deeply concerned about the lack of services across NSW.

‘I am aware that organisations like Beyond Blue cannot cope with the sheer number of young people that contact them for help and have to turn people away!’ said Ms Smith.

‘That shocks me to think that a young person who is in extreme need may not get the help they need even when they reach out for it.’

Where can we go for help?

There are a few ways we can access help here: government initiatives such as Headspace, our GP or a psychologist, and online services and helplines. 

Headspace is a service that has attempted to fill the gap that traditional health services have left when it comes to providing mental health support.

Providing tailored and holistic mental health support, Headspace uses a combination of in-person consults and telephone support to focus on early intervention for mental issues in kids.

Unfortunately for those in Byron Bay, the closest headspace facility is in either Lismore or Tweed Heads. Due to our lack of public transport, getting to these centres for a free consult can be challenging. 

When it comes to seeing a GP, a young person can be put onto a Mental Health Care Plan. This enables them to have 10 appointments with an allied mental health service, such as a psychologist, and attain Medicare rebates.

The downside is that the payment gap can range from $40 to $70, leaving young people significantly out of pocket.

Online services really are imperative for young people living in regional areas, and I will admit that I was hesitant to utilise them at first; I was craving human connection because I thought that would be the only way to help me. 

However, a 2013 study showed that telephone services resulted in lower attrition rates and close to equivalent improvement in depression compared to face-to-face services. 

Headspace, Lifeline, Beyond Blue, KidsHelpLine and MindSpot are a few of many helplines that one can access.

Crisis intervention 

This, however, leads to a bigger issue: if our early-action services are so minimal, how goes our crisis intervention for mental health patients?

When emergency services are called to a mental health emergency, the closest option is to transport the patient to either Tweed Heads or Lismore as both hospitals have acute inpatient units.  

Byron Bay hospital is a Sub Acute Mental Health Service and offers short stay residential care recovery and support for those who no longer require acute treatment. 

Ms Smith affirmed that due to waiting lists hindering access to acute mental health support, the onus is falling on non-governmental entities.

‘Non-profit organisations and charities should not have to bear the responsibility for providing adequate front line mental health services,’ said Ms Smith.

Where to from here?

On Tuesday 10 December, the Mindgardens Neuroscience Network was launched with $7 million of Commonwealth government funding to underpin the unique mental health service. 

Based on a collaboration from UNSW Sydney, Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA), the Black Dog Institute and South Eastern Sydney Local Health District Health, Mindgardens rigorously tailors treatment according to the unique needs of the patients. 

Ms Smith commended the action of this network for bringing together specialist clinicians who are at the cutting edge of research into mental health. 

‘This model is a new way of looking at the whole person and includes positive mental health as a core primary health need,’ she said. 

‘I think we need the equivalent of a program like Mindgardens specifically for young people to be trialled and rolled out across the state and that will take extra resources from state and federal governments.’

We are now moving towards a culture that values the importance of mental health to be at the same level as physical health; it is time our local services reflected that need. 

It is about priorities,’ said Ms Smith.

‘I for one wish to see us prioritise our youth.’






Previous articlePell
Next articleBangalow footpath

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


    • Hi David,
      Are you involved ni the Family Centre. I would love to connect in regards to the program you linked here. I run Byron Youth Theatre and we have a short production called Mind Made Me which explores issues of youth mental health. We have toured in local schools between 2014-2016 and since then have presented it at Mental Health Month events and conferences.
      I am currently looking for funding to take it back out to schools and want to connect with regional services so that we can offer discussion/workshops directly at schools. It has proven very beneficial in the past for young people to have meet a real person from a local organisation.
      Please contact me on [email protected]

  1. Loved this article as it highlights the real situation that young people experience here and in other regional/rural towns. Thanks
    You may be interested in Byron Youth Theatre’s production called Mind Made Me which we are seeking funding for to take back out into schools and looking to connect with other local organisations as well as headspace to join us and introduce young people directly about local services.
    If anyone is keen to collaborate or has connections to funding courses please contact me
    Lisa at [email protected]


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Pothole protest gets immediate results

Psst: want to get Council staff to do something about the appalling state of roads in your neighbourhood? Organise a protest outside Mullum’s Council Chambers! By...

What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Art imitates life in What’s Love Got to Do with It? a 2022 British romantic comedy-drama film directed by Shekhar Kapur, from a screenplay by Jemima Khan.  The precis reads: ‘Set between London and Lahore, a filmmaker documents her childhood friend and neighbour’s arranged marriage to a bride from Pakistan.’

We’ve had the rain bomb, is a fire bomb next?

We had the Black Summer fires and then the floods and NSW Farmers says time is running out to prevent more mass bushfires at the end of this year.

A smorgasbord of flicks

This year’s smorgasbord of over 40 incredible short films are handpicked from a record 3,200 entries received for Flickerfest’s Academy® and BAFTA Qualifying short-film festival screened recently in Bondi, and Northern Rivers audiences are the first in Australia to experience the best of Flickerfest on tour. Highlights enjoying their Northern Rivers premiere include recent Academy® nominees and much-loved festival award winners alongside exciting, fresh, local talent.