Youth Insearch supporting young people with a lived experience of trauma

Posted 27th February 2024 in Sector news

Youth Insearch is a peer-led youth trauma recovery organisation, dedicated to supporting young people aged 12-25 years at risk of mental health concerns and suicide.

The organisation creates safe spaces where young people with a lived or living experience of trauma support each other to heal and manage the impact of trauma, make meaningful peer connections, improve mental wellbeing and overcome life challenges.

The activities of Youth Insearch provide young people who have experienced trauma:

  • Opportunity to talk about their issues and concerns in a compassionate and trusting environment
  • Opportunity to be listened to and affirmed by their peers to support their understanding that they are not alone in their experience; and
  • Encourages young people to be empowered to be part of the solution and problem-solving skills.

Youth Insearch’s activities are centred on a model that recognises that Australia’s existing mental health system serves the needs of some young Australian but fails to meet the needs of many other young people.

CEO of Youth Insearch Stephen Lewin talks about the "forgotten middle"– the young Australians who are overlooked by the mainstream medical approach to mental health.

Mr Lewin explains that young people we consider the forgotten middle are less likely to walk into a headspace and are more willing to open up to their peers. He states Australia's mental health system must meet young people where they are and are and provide them with the type of support they will connect with.

Youth Insearch’s model utilises the lived experience peer workers and youth leaders within multidisciplinary teams embedded within communities to help connect with these young people.

Lived Experience Peer Worker Nelani Botha agrees that young people are likely to open up to those who look and sound like them when seeking support for their mental health journey.

"I have become more aware of the value of lived experience peer workers since becoming one. The biggest thing we bring to the table is relatability; being able to say to a young person, I understand you, and I know what you are going through, is a great relief to them," Nelani said.

Nelani, now 23 years old, started as a Youth Insearch participant at 18 years old, was impacted by intense bullying, and experienced suicidal thoughts at 15 years old.

For Erin Fleming, with her background working with incarcerated juveniles and based within schools, supporting those living in foster care, she believes incorporating lived experience into mental health services takes support to the next level.

“Now in my mid-40’s, as a clinician, I understand that the age gap is significant, and someone closer to a client's age has a better understanding of what today’s young people are going through.”

“To have a sounding board in lived experience peer workers is so helpful, to gain a young person’s perspective on a case, and sometimes gaining knowledge about a client prior to our first face-to-face, with clients more likely to open up quickly to someone like-minded in the first instance,” Erin said.

Recently, Youth Insearch led End Youth Suicide Week (19-23 Feb), rallying communities to take a stand against youth suicide. From fundraisers to advocacy efforts, the initiative underscored the urgent need for change.

Youth Insearch is urging policymakers to prioritise the establishment of a peer-to-peer workforce nationwide to ensure that no young Australian falls through the cracks, every voice is heard, and every life is valued.

Youth Insearch is funded under the National Suicide Prevention Leadership and Support Program to develop a youth lived experience network in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

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