“If I could change one thing about Australia it would be The Mental Health System.”

POST 1: Creating a Data Set Using Secondary Sources.

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I decided to research the issue of Mental Health for the course of this semester. Having two parents living with mental illness, I felt like the relevancy of this topic to my own life would help to maintain my interest over the coming weeks and ignite a desire to not only research, but actively try and create some change. Since the recent federal election, there has been significant conversation surrounding the state of our mental health system in Australia, and a huge public push for revision of,  or larger support for,  existing platforms. Initially, i started to collect articles with no particular selection process, keeping my research scope wide and unbiased to any particular sources. I was aware that the majority of the recent Australian articles I collected were framed by the federal election or our subsequent entry  into a new political term with the Coalition. I started to notice that the response toward Australian youth mental health was almost a desperate call out into the abyss; experts at their wits’ end as youth suicide rises quickly, and organisations pushing relentlessly for greater funding for services. The air of desperation had encouraged our political powers to make drastic promises in the 2016 election in terms of raising financial support for mental health and reviewing our current initiatives.

ARTICLE ONE

The first source i visited was a radio program produced by Hack on Triple J. It was an hour long news program that focused on the political side of mental health in Australia aired in the week leading up to the federal election. Hack is a radio program I listen to daily, and usually features topical stories comprised of interviews with experts, research from various journalists, statistical analysis and interaction with the public through anecdotal pieces or real time text and call input. The Hack program is produced by the ABC, and while sometimes labelled as slightly left-leaning, is generally trustworthy, and prides itself on allowing both sides of any one story to have its voice heard, Hack regularly features representatives from both sides of the political spectrum and input from viewers that feature diversity of opinion. This radio piece was extremely informative, using current policy promises from both Labor and Liberal as the frame for the conversation on youth Mental health. It’s exploration of the current state of Headspace, Australia’s largest youth mental health initiative, established in 2006, was particularly interesting, as it explored its successes, through personalised story packages, as well as recently published statistical evidence that suggested it wasn’t performing anywhere near the level it needed to be a decade after it’s inception.

ARTICLE TWO

As I delved into other news articles, I started developing an interest in Headspace, simply as it’s our largest government funded mental health initiative for young people. The second article I analysed was from one of my go-to news pages The Conversation, which is an independent, not-for-profit media outlet that uses content sourced from the academic and research community. Primarily sourced from Victorian scholars and universities, The Conversation publishes news stories written by academics, and informed primarily by real research and has been a great source for me during my studies. The article I explored was written by Anthony Jorm, a psychiatrist who was granted funding to research Headspace patients. Instantly I recognised some of the statistics, which I believe were used in the Hack radio program I researched prior. I knew that the information I was reading was trustworthy and highly relevant to the current discussions around the success of Headspace centres, However, the article offered an incredibly quantified view of mental health, which is really such a subjective, complex and emotional issue. It becomes very difficult when we try to break down this issue into a data set, as it cannot be seen as cured or not cured as many physical illnesses are. Then again, I do believe The Conversation were able to leave this publication reasonably open to a sense of optimism for the Headspace initiative, particularly after the monetary promises from both political sides in the lead up to the federal election.

ARTICLE THREE

The third article is essentially a breakdown of the shocking current statistics around youth mental health and suicide that were addressed at the recent Suicide Prevention Conference in Canberra. This article uses a high level of data in addition to quotes from experts that were present at the convention in order to highlight the need for drastic change, particularly for youth in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, who are so horribly affected by these growing rates of mental illness. Ellery’s article doesn’t offer any unique opinions, but rather uses this quantified evidence as a means to shock the reader. Immediately, I am concerned by the high rates of suicide and the words I read start internal dialogue in my mind, as I begin to grow emotional and question why there exists such horrifying data. Sydney Morning Herald is a prominent news outlet, considered by many to be left leaning but with a high news standard. This article does offer a sense of hope, as we are aware that the conversation around youth suicide has started due to Prevention Conferences like those referenced in Ellery’s piece.

ARTICLE FOUR

The fourth article I visited was another publication that was born from the recent Suicide Prevention Conference in Canberra. The author, Liz Keen, from the ABC collated a whole lot of expert data and opinion on the state of youth Mental Health in Australia. In a similar way to the previous article I analysed, this piece relies heavily on statistics in order to convey the importance of the issue. There is a large emphasis in this work on the importance to encourage discussion around youth suicide, in order to generate innovative solutions and also to engage those that may be suffering in silence. The article is well researched, and features some personal experiences from those that spoke at the conference in Canberra.

ARTICLE FIVE

In an attempt to move away from less statistical based news articles and toward more subjective pieces, I visited Junkee, a youth targeted news page that often specialises in satire articles and pop culture. Junkee is generally considered to be an opinion based source, with most of the political articles written by individuals with the intention to start discussion and engage. This particular article from 2015, was written by guest author Chris Raine, CEO of non-for-profit organisation Hello Sunday Morning, that aims to address Australian youth drinking cultures and violence on our streets. This piece, entitled ‘If I Could Change One Thing About Australia It Would Be: The Mental Health System’. What I really enjoyed about Raine’s article was the use of frightening statistical data in order to back up his own opinions on Mental Illness in Australia, not only did he condemn the current system, using his own personal stories as evidence for its pitfalls, but offered up some of his own creative solutions for the future. Raine is working in the field of mental health, has two parents that are both general practitioners, and suffers from mental illness himself – this may make many suggest that he is an expert in the experience of mental health issues. While this article doesn’t necessarily offer up any newly reported information or data, i did felt like it engaged me more so on an emotional level than previous articles. The use of personal anecdotes and experiences really does build up a more complex and humanized stance on the issue then pages of data ever could.

 

REFERENCES

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ARTICLE ONE
‘Lets Vote: Mental Health’ 2016, Hack, radio program transcript, Triple J, ABC, Sydney, 28 June 5.30pm, viewed 29 July 2016, http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/hack/753521.

ARTICLE TWO
Jorm, A 2015, ‘Is ‘headspace’ really improving young people’s mental health?’, The Conversation, 26 August, viewed 30 July 2016, http://theconversation.com/is-headspace-really-improving-young-peoples-mental-health-46398.

ARTICLE THREE
Ellery, D 2016, ‘Youth suicide rate demands urgent action ACT conference told’,
Sydney Morning Herald, 25 July, viewed 29 July 2016, http://www.smh.com.au/national/youth-suicide-rate-demands-urgent-action-act-conference-told-20160725-gqcyc4.html.

ARTICLE FOUR
Raine, C 2015, ‘If I Could Change One Thing About Australia It Would Be: The Mental Health System’, Junkee, 5 June, viewed 29 July 2016, http://junkee.com/if-i-could-change-one-thing-about-australia-it-would-be-the-mental-health-system/58595.

ARTICLE FIVE
Keen, L 2016, ‘Best way to tackle suicide rates it to be honest about our own mental health: Suicide Prevention Australia’,
ABC News, 28 July, viewed 30 July 2016, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-07-28/being-honest-about-mental-health-to-tackle-suicide-rates/7668796.

IMAGE
2015, Headspace Instagram, viewed August 1 2016, https://www.instagram.com/p/wU2QcQwA_J/?taken-by=headspace_aus