Areas of need

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Supporting young people with severe mental illness

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Did you know that one in four young Australians currently has a mental health condition and suicide accounts for more deaths of young people than car accidents?

It could be your neighbour, one of your grandchildren, their friends or a family member dealing with or experiencing mental illness.

Eastern Health works with young people from the eastern suburbs who are experiencing severe mental health episodes. Our programs are designed to help young people understand and manage their illness.

Everyone has a part to play in supporting young people with a mental illness in our community. 

Eastern Health’s Adolescent Inpatient Unit

When a young person experiences an acute episode of mental health or mental illness and requires hospitalisation, they may be admitted to Eastern Health’s Adolescent Inpatient Unit (AIPU), adjacent to Box Hill Hospital.

The unit is shared with other similar aged peers and in which young people work with mental health professionals in individual and group programs. Young people stay for as little as one day or up to several weeks or more, working with mental health professionals in individual and group programs until they are stabilised.

Our Adolescent Inpatient Unit supports young people, aged between 13 and 18, who have an acute mental health issue or a mental illness. Approximately 600 young people are admitted each year (including many who are admitted multiple times).

Young people may be admitted for a variety of conditions, including psychosis, bipolar affective disorder, severe depression, emerging personality disorders (eg schizophrenia, paranoia, borderline personality disorder and anxiety), feeling suicidal or attempting to end their life, self-harm and having experienced trauma.

These conditions can severely impact on a young person’s ability to maintain relationships at home and in the community, especially at school.

Sensory therapy

One of the programs offered within the Adolescent Inpatient Unit is ‘sensory therapy’, which can be effective for young people who are struggling to regulate their emotions.

By providing different objects and experiences to stimulate the five senses of sight, smell, taste, vision and hearing, staff can then work with young people to calm them down, encourage self-awareness and teach them strategies to regulate their own emotions ‘in the moment’. 

“Our job is to contain the crisis and provide young people with skills and strategies to either help themselves or continue to seek help once they are discharged,” explains Anthony from Adolescent Inpatient Unit.

“Essentially, we teach positive coping skills.”

Once young people no longer require acute care in hospital, they receive continued support in the community (usually provided by Eastern Health’s Child & Youth Mental Health Service clinicians who provide specialised case management support).

“Sensory therapy is very effective and something our young people can easily tap into when they are discharged from the unit,” says Anthony. ‘At present however, young people who cannot afford to purchase their own sensory items have no further access to Sensory Therapy when they leave the Unit”.

Sensory Kits

Eastern Health would like to provide take-home sensory kits for our young people, so that they can continue their sensory therapy at home.

Each sensory kit would include a tailor-made mix of items for each young person. Items may include squeeze balls, a fibre optic lamp, scented body lotion and kinetic sand – each specifically chosen to provide either a sensory distraction or have a calming effect. This initiative is the first of its kind for Adolescent Inpatient Unit.

Young people would utilize these kits when they return home, to better manage the daily stressors of home, life and school. 

Benefits

The many benefits of a take-home sensory therapy kit may include increased:

  • self-awareness
  • ability to self-nurture
  • resilience
  • self-esteem 
  • ability to engage in self-care activities
  • ability to engage in social activities
  • ability to cope with triggers

Each $100 raised towards this project will provide one Sensory Therapy Kit. 

Contact

Please contact Eastern Health Foundation on 9895 4608 or email foundation@easternhealth.org.au to support this program or make a donation online, referencing Sensory Kits when asked 'How would you like your donation to be used?'.