headspace unveils youth-led Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health campaign

A new national headspace campaign, launching today, is telling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people there's no shame in talking about problems affecting their mental health and wellbeing.

The campaign is the first youth-led national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth mental health campaign of its kind.

'Yarn safe' was developed with a group of 12 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people from across Australia, including Elcho Island, Brisbane, Darwin, Broome, Melbourne and Perth.

The campaign aims to improve mental health literacy among this group and encourage them to get help at headspace centres located around the country, eheadspace online and telephone counselling service or other appropriate mental health services.

headspace CEO Chris Tanti said depression, anxiety and suicide affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth at a significantly higher rate than non-Indigenous young people.

"Shame, judgement and feeling isolated for not being 'normal' is stopping many young people from getting the help they need. There's also a lack of trust in services and knowledge of the mental health system.

"A huge appeal of headspace for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people is the ease of access and confidentiality, which isn't always guaranteed at other services, so the campaign needed to emphasise that," Mr Tanti said.

Over the last 12 months, the group of 12 young people, who were selected through a national recruitment process, came together in Melbourne to attend various workshops where they conceptualised the campaign.

Through the workshops and a series of phone and online interactions, young people provided direction into every aspect of the campaign, including language, colours, messaging and design.

headspace and the young people worked with Indigenous creative agency, Gilimbaa, on the creative development of the campaign.

One of the young people involved in its creation, Sam Paxton, said designing an effective national campaign for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young peoples has been challenging, particularly due to the diversity between cultures.

"By bringing together a group of young people across Australia, we have been able to explore the commonalities that exist within our cultures," she said.

We've united elements of art with strong imagery of people, country and language that's familiar to and resonates with all."

Ms Paxton said too often the physical aspect of our health is treated in isolation and underlying issues are overlooked.

"headspace understands that health is holistic and works with both young people and their family. In taking this approach, hopefully we can continue to break the cycle of inter-generational trauma that exists within our communities," Ms Paxton said.

The campaign will be seen in metropolitan, regional and rural communities around the country through headspace centres as well as online at yarnsafe.org.au. A second advertising phase will take the campaign to TV, radio, print and online media in November.

Mr Tanti said the organisation has a relatively high number of young people identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander accessing headspace services.

"We know that young people in this group find headspace to be a welcoming and trustworthy place to go for their problems, but we also know there are many young people at risk we aren't reaching," Mr Tanti said.

"By working with this group, we've created a targeted and culturally appropriate campaign that will hopefully drive Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to our services and make a difference to their future."


The national launch will be held in the Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Melbourne Museum on Thursday 11 September at 11am.

A series of local campaign launches will be held in headspace centre locations around Australia over the following month to celebrate and bring the campaign to a diverse range of communities across the country.

headspace media contact: Carly Wright - 0413025385 cwright@headspace.org.au

About headspace

The primary focus of headspace is the mental health and wellbeing of young Australians. headspace helps 12 - 25 year olds going through a tough time through a national network of 70 headspace centres (soon to be 100) and online and telephone counselling service eheadspace.

headspace can help young people with general health, mental health, education and employment and alcohol and other drug services.

headspace was established and funded by the Commonwealth Government of Australia in 2006.

Visit headspace.org.au to find a headspace centre or access help.


Facts and statistics:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians report higher levels of psychological distress compared with other Australians, with 77 per cent reporting experiencing at least one major stressor in the past 12 months, the most common stressor being the death of a family member or close friend.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, particularly in rural and remote Australia, have higher rates of depression, substance abuse, co-morbidity and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians do not access community and outpatient mental health services at a level that is commensurate with their need.
Indigenous young people: the rates of completed suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and females are over twice the rate for other Australian males and almost twice the rate for other Australian females.
AIHW report- The health and welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, 2011 showed in 2008, almost one-third of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (aged 16-24 years) had high or very high levels of psychological distress-more than twice the rate of young non-Indigenous Australians.