For Kara Collins, this Mother’s Day will be extra special with her daughter Ally.
Racked by chronic anxiety and crippling chest pain, 21-year-old Ally knows first-hand the debilitating effects of mental ill-health. There have been days she was so down she could not function to get out of bed. Her mother had to feed and bathe her. And at her lowest, Ally contemplated suicide.
“Every time I would go to the doctor she would just say: ‘You’re stressed’ so we put it down to Year 12,” Ally said. “I knew I was a bit of a stress head and anxiety prone, but nothing had ever been diagnosed.”
Shortly after finishing school, Ally started volunteering with the Youth Focus Youth Reference Group as a way of giving back to the community and helping to shape the organisation’s programs.
“At the time I had absolutely no idea that the stresses I had been dealing with in my life were actually severe anxiety,” she said.
“Through the Youth Reference Group, I reached out to the counselling services at Youth Focus, which really was a lifesaver.
“Youth Focus helped me to realise that I actually did need help. They provided counselling services so I could learn skills to help me manage day-to-day with my mental health.”
Now the family is sharing its deeply personal story in an effort to help raise awareness about youth mental health and raise vital funds for Youth Focus services.
Money raised through the Youth Focus end of financial year appeal in May and June, which acknowledges the “strength in sharing” will allow the organisation to continue its work to provide free professional counselling sessions for young people and suicide prevention education programs in WA schools.
Kara said Youth Focus had assisted her daughter to reclaim her life and gain a greater understanding of her anxiety, but Ally’s mental health still presented challenges.
“My biggest fear as a parent is that Ally and I will lose the battle with mental illness and that I’ll actually lose her to this disease. That’s a reality that we face,” Kara said.
“We’re really fortunate to understand and know what Youth Focus delivers in the community and are really grateful for what they’ve contributed to our family.
“I would urge everyone in our community to educate yourselves, donate to Youth Focus, whatever you can do to make sure every young person who needs help receives it.”
Latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows 49 young people aged between 15 and 24 took their own lives in WA in 2019.
Youth Focus is the only specialist non-government youth mental health service in WA and works to prevent suicide and improve the mental health of young people aged 12 to 25 through free counselling, outreach and community education services.
Last financial year Youth Focus supported 6090 young people through its counselling, assessment and headspace services and another 5773 people through school and community education programs at 37 schools.
Youth Focus Chief Executive Officer Arthur Papakotsias said the COVID-19 pandemic meant that mental health support had never been more important for young people.
“Demand for Youth Focus services has never been higher. We have seen a 34% increase for our services at Youth Focus in the past year,” Mr Papakotsias said.
“At the same time the University of Sydney has forecast an increase in suicides of young people by 12.4%, at worst 18.3% over the next five years, largely due to the pandemic. Naturally, this is of great concern.
“While Youth Focus receives some government funding, the generosity of our sponsors and partners enables us to continue to expand and provide critical counselling support for young people. This fundraising campaign will help us to ensure vulnerable Western Australians who need our help have the very best chance of receiving it.”
Nicole Cox – 0419 941 443