STRONGER TOGETHER: Beyond the Classroom - Navigating the Challenges of School Avoidance and Mental Wellbeing

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"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses the pressing issues facing our young people, from the rising tide of mental health challenges to the troubling phenomenon of school avoidance.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

The balancing act of ensuring our children's academic success while nurturing their mental wellbeing is a struggle many parents can relate to. If you've ever found yourself in this complex predicament, rest assured, you're not alone.

In our recent episode of the STRONGER TOGETHER podcast, I had the privilege of sitting down with Vicki Ross, a dedicated guidance officer serving in both primary and secondary schools across the Bundaberg region. Together, we delved into the pressing issues facing our young people, from the rising tide of mental health challenges to the troubling phenomenon of school avoidance. Our conversation highlighted the gravity of these issues, prompting an in-depth discussion on the collaborative efforts needed to support the wellbeing of our youth.

The statistics are sobering. With conditions like anxiety, depression, and ADHD on the rise, alongside an alarming increase in rates of ‘school refusal,’ it's abundantly clear that youth mental health is a matter of urgent national concern. Shockingly, about 1 in 7 children and adolescents in Australia have recently grappled with a mental health disorder, underscoring the pressing need for early identification and intervention.

Mrs. Ross stressed the importance of spotting early signs of mental health issues, highlighting that a staggering 75% of mental health illnesses manifest before the age of 25. This stark reality emphasises the pivotal role that early intervention plays in shaping the lifelong trajectory of our young ones.

Equally troubling are the rates of non-attendance and ‘school refusal’ in Queensland, with overall school attendance rates witnessing a concerning decline in recent years. This phenomenon, exacerbated by a myriad of societal challenges, underscores the imperative of addressing the root causes contributing to school avoidance.

It is a challenging situation. For some families, it's really hard to get their child on the bus or in the car to get them to school and they go, ‘I can't do that today. I just can't have that argument again today. I'll let it go today.’ And then it's the next day, and the next. And before you know it, it's quite an extended absence.

School avoidance is complex and requires a tailored approach that acknowledges the unique needs and circumstances of each individual child and their family. Mrs Ross advocates for a "soft launch" entry back into school, starting with small steps based on each student's needs and interests. This might involve setting weekly goals, identifying supportive individuals ("champion people") within the school community, and gradually increasing involvement in school activities.

Yet, despite our best efforts, an individualised approach may not always yield the desired results. In such cases, exploring alternative education opportunities, such as homeschooling or specialised schools, may be worth considering to prioritise both the child's and the family's wellbeing.

Ultimately, finding an educational setting that fosters growth while supporting mental health is paramount. It's a journey that requires patience, empathy, and unwavering support from all stakeholders involved – parents, educators, and the broader community. Our young people are indeed our future, and they are unequivocally worth every ounce of effort we invest in their wellbeing.

Listen to Episode 9 of IMPACT's STRONGER TOGETHER podcast series "Brighter Minds & Enhancing Mental Wellbeing in the Classroom" here.

Season 2, episode 9, "Brighter minds & enhancing mental wellbeing in the classroom" features an insightful conversation hosted by Tanya O'Shea with guest Vicki Ross, focusing on the mental health of young people in educational settings, primarily in Bundaberg. This episode delves into the crucial role of schools and community collaboration in identifying and addressing mental health issues among youth. Vicki Ross, a guidance officer who works across both primary and high schools, shares her extensive experience and observations regarding the various mental health challenges faced by children and adolescents. The discussion highlights the importance of early intervention, the prevalence of conditions such as ADHD, anxiety, and depression, and the impact of bullying on students' mental wellbeing.

Vicki emphasises the significance of individualised support strategies, the need for creativity and innovation in intervention approaches, and the role of family and community support systems in aiding young people. The conversation also touches on the broader societal issues contributing to mental health problems, such as financial stress and the effects of social media on loneliness and isolation. The podcast aims to shed light on the complex landscape of youth mental health and the collaborative efforts required to support the wellbeing of young individuals in the community.

Discover how individual stories weave into a larger narrative of hope, resilience, and collective action. It's time to embrace our roles in fostering an environment where every child can flourish. Let's learn, support, and grow together.

IMPACT Community Services:

➡️ IMPACT Community Services: 07 4153 4233 or 1800 179 233
This service is available to residents of Bundaberg, South Burnett, North Burnett and the discovery Coast visit HERE to read more

Other support services:

➡️Reach Out
️Lifeline - 13 11 14
️13YARN – 13 92 76
➡️Beyond Blue - 1300 22 4636
➡️DV Connect - 1800 811 811
➡️Parent Line - 1300 301 300
️MensLine - 1300 99 78 78
➡️1800 RESPECT - 1800 737 732

Please note: This podcast may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

In episode 8, "Bridging loneliness through the power of nature and community: Sharon's Story," we invite listeners on a profound exploration of healing and connection through the lens of Sharon's life. As an Indigenous woman who has navigated the challenging waters of loneliness and trauma, Sharon's experiences illuminate the powerful roles that both nature and a compassionate community play in the journey towards emotional and psychological well-being.

This episode is not just a story of personal triumph; it's a deeper dive into how reconnecting with the earth and finding solace in a supportive community can offer a pathway out of isolation. We explore the intrinsic bond humans share with nature—a relationship that transcends cultures and has been a source of comfort and recovery for countless individuals across generations. Sharon's narrative is a testament to the ancient wisdom that recognises nature as a healer and a teacher.

Furthermore, we delve into the essence of community—not just as a group of people living in proximity, but as a network of support, understanding, and shared experience. Sharon's story sheds light on the importance of being part of a community that truly understands and accepts one another, highlighting how such connections can serve as a powerful antidote to loneliness.

Listeners will be inspired by Sharon's resilience and moved by her journey from a place of pain to one of peace and connection. This episode aims to spark a conversation about the importance of nurturing our relationships with the natural world and each other, encouraging everyone to take steps towards bridging the gaps of loneliness in their own lives and in their communities.

Join us in episode 8 for an enriching experience that not only tells Sharon's story but also invites us all to reflect on the importance of bridging loneliness with the healing power of nature and the warmth of community.

Support services:
➡️ IMPACT Community Services: 07 4153 4233 or 1800 179 233
This service is available to residents of Bundaberg, South Burnett, North Burnett and the discovery Coast visit HERE to read more

➡️13YARN – 13 92 76
Free confidential service available 24/7 run by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Connect with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Crisis Supporters.

Other support services:
➡️Lifeline - 13 11 14
➡️Beyond Blue - 1300 22 4636
➡️DV Connect - 1800 811 811
➡️Parent Line - 1300 301 300
➡️MensLine - 1300 99 78 78
➡️1800 RESPECT - 1800 737 732

It’s a big period of change for IMPACT Community Services’ Amy Griffiths.

As the new Team Leader of IMPACT’s Family Mental Health Support Services (FMHSS) in Hervey Bay, Amy is also looking forward to becoming an Australian citizen and using her skills and experience to help children and families in the region.

The FMHSS aims to improve mental health outcomes for children and young people, and their families, by providing early intervention support, short-term assistance, and community outreach and education.

IMPACT, which has successfully operated FMHSS in Bundaberg for 15 years, has recently taken over the contract to provide this vital service to the Hervey Bay and Fraser Coast region.

Last financial year, IMPACT’s FMHHS supported 110 short term and 39 long term clients, as well as an additional 342 people through group and community forum sessions.

Amy, who moved to Australia from New Zealand and fell in love with the Fraser Coast, is passionate about working with the youth and helping them overcome challenges and achieve their goals.

She will be based at the Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre, where she and the FMHSS team will work closely with other community organisations and stakeholders to deliver the FMHSS program.

"I'm so excited. It's where my heart is, working with the youth...it's where my passion is," Amy said.

The FMHSS welcomes referrals from families, schools, health professionals, and other agencies and can be contacted by calling 0473 533 491, or visiting the Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre, 22 Charles Street, Pialba.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses perfectionism, social media, and the toll it takes on our mental health.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

In today's digitally connected world, social media has become a stage where many of us showcase curated versions of our lives. Picturesque vacations, flawless selfies, and tales of unending success often dominate our feeds. However, the truth is that appearances on social media can be profoundly deceiving. Beneath those seemingly perfect lives lie complexities that may never make it to the Instagram grid or the Facebook wall.

As I reflect on this, I am reminded of a friend whose online presence always seemed enviable. Her posts were a collage of impeccable moments – stunning travel photos, impressive career achievements, and seemingly flawless relationships. Her life appeared to be the epitome of perfection. But as we got closer, I began to see a different story unfold.

The facade of her perfect life on social media masked the emotional struggles she endured. The pressure to maintain that illusion of perfection took a toll on her mental health. Her achievements were hard-won and came at the expense of countless sleepless nights. The beautiful travel pictures did not capture the moments of loneliness and homesickness she experienced while abroad. The seemingly perfect relationship she presented had its share of conflicts and compromises.

In the age of filters and selective sharing, it's crucial to remember that what we see on social media is often only a fragment of someone's reality. The pursuit of perfection can lead us to filter their lives, hiding their vulnerabilities and challenges behind a carefully crafted facade. It's a stark reminder that comparing our lives to others' highlight reels can be a fruitless and disheartening endeavour.

Perfectionism, whether driven by personal standards or the pressure to meet external expectations, often plays a role in perpetuating these misleading appearances. The desire to present oneself as flawless can lead to a disconnect between our real experiences and the image projected online.

So, what's the takeaway in this era of picture-perfect profiles? First, it's essential to approach social media with a critical eye and an understanding that appearances can be deceiving. Remember that most people share their best moments while leaving the rest unspoken. Second, it's vital to practice self-compassion. Embrace the imperfections and acknowledge that nobody's life is devoid of challenges.

The next time you find yourself scrolling through a friend's feed, marvelling at their seemingly ideal life, remember that beneath the filters and perfectly crafted posts lies a human being with their own set of struggles and triumphs. After all, the pursuit of perfection may be an admirable endeavour, but it's essential to remember that perfection is not a requirement for happiness or success. In embracing the authenticity beneath the facade, we find a path to genuine connection and personal growth.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses the complex and sensitive subject of trauma.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

“Words matter because clarity in words is a part of clarity in thinking, and because some words carry great emotional and symbolic weight, and thus should be not used lightly.” —Jeffrie G. Murphy

These words resonate deeply in today's context with increasing awareness around the importance of mental well-being, specifically regarding psychological trauma and the devastating impact that it can have on individuals, families and even communities.

Almost daily we hear people referring to trauma, sometimes even using it to label or explain another person’s experience. Let’s call this out early: unless you are a mental health professional or have lived experience, we should not label other people’s experiences. One person's experience of trauma can vastly differ from another's.

It is easy to understand why trauma has become somewhat of a catchphrase today. For too long, people have struggled to share their experience, perhaps even feeling misunderstood, unheard, or invalidated when speaking up or sharing openly that they are not coping. Sharing that you or someone you know is traumatised however, is not as easy to ignore.

Sometimes we feel stuck, uncertain if what we have gone through, or are going through, is trauma. It is a loaded word, often used to explain the discomfort or pain that we are experiencing. And sometimes, it is even used to justify poor behaviour that has resulted in a negative impact or outcome. 

Trauma is an ever-evolving field, and this article has a limited word count so let’s keep things super simple. Trauma literally means ‘wound, injury or shock’ and is the emotional, psychological, and physiological residue resulting from a stressful event.

Simple trauma is often overwhelming and painful, and rarely would anyone who has experienced simple trauma, refer to it as ‘simple.’ It is often a single event, something that may be life-threatening or cause serious injury, and may include things like natural disasters, car accidents or being the victim of a crime such as a rape or home invasion.

In comparison, complex trauma goes beyond a one-off incident and generally includes multiple incidents over a longer duration. Complex trauma tends to be repeated, may be difficult or impossible to escape from, may occur within a personal relationship or may begin as early as childhood, and can be something that an individual carries with them through to adulthood. People who experience complex trauma often feel disconnected from the support of others.

Even though simple and complex trauma are similar in many ways, they have some important differences. One thing to highlight is the element of shame and secrecy that often accompanies complex trauma. Simple trauma is usually validated, sometimes through acknowledgement, media coverage or recognition from family, friends, law enforcement or other societal systems.

In comparison, complex trauma is ongoing, with very little opportunity to recover before the pattern is repeated. It often occurs in secrecy and may be accompanied by threats and behaviours that compromise the safety of individuals or others within their family.

Irrespective of the type of trauma, unresolved symptoms such as anxiety, sleep problems, low energy, fatigue or an overreliance on drugs and alcohol will have an adverse effect on an individual’s mental and physical health and wellbeing. As a community we therefore have a responsibility not to offer responses that are unhelpful, judge or blame victims as this further disempowers them and leaves them a target of ongoing threats, violation, or violence. 

Trauma, and the reactions of others, can have lasting effects on a person's mental and physical health. However, it doesn't have to shape their future. Trauma can be treated, and if you or someone you know can relate to the content here, it is important to seek support. With the right support and guidance, the challenges of trauma can be overcome.

If you would like more information about trauma, jump on and check out the resources at blue knot: https://blueknot.org.au/resources/blue-knot-fact-sheets/talking-about-trauma/

In this enlightening Stronger Together episode, we tackle the often overlooked topic of men's mental health with our esteemed guest, Aaron Schultz, founder of the Outback Mind Foundation. Aaron's insights shine a spotlight on the unique challenges faced by men in today's fast-paced society, particularly those grappling with the unpredictability of shift work and other modern-day pressures.

Drawing from his extensive experience and personal journey, Aaron underscores the significance of aligning with the Earth's natural circadian rhythms. He believes that by attuning ourselves to these inherent patterns, men can find a more harmonious mental space, even amidst the complexities of contemporary life.

We further discuss a myriad of actionable strategies for maintaining balance and mental wellness. From the grounding effects of nature and the calming benefits of stretching, Aaron offers practical techniques to help men release tension and achieve inner tranquillity. The conversation also touches on the vital role employers and communities play in creating supportive environments for men's mental wellbeing.

Emphasising the importance of community-wide efforts, Aaron passionately advocates for a collective approach in addressing and de-stigmatising men's mental health issues. This episode serves as a poignant reminder of our shared responsibility to uplift and support men in their journey towards mental harmony.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses the different types of mental health professionals and the services they offer.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

Life can throw some significant challenges and hurdles at us, so getting access to the mental health support and help that we need, when we need it, is important.

Yet when it comes to getting help, who do I need to see?

This is a common question and can be frustrating and overwhelming for many of us. However, the bigger concern is that it is even tricker to navigate if you are experiencing mental health symptoms and have not asked for help before.

In today’s column, I therefore wanted to demystify the different types of mental health professionals and the services that they can provide. It can be challenging to understand the nuances between the various types of mental health professionals, but it’s essential to know what each one does so that you can get the help you need. Let’s dive in!

Psychiatrists are medically trained doctors who specialise in diagnosing and treating mental illnesses. They can prescribe medication and provide therapy.

Psychotherapists are trained in a range of therapies to improve mental wellbeing, including shifting unhelpful patterns of thinking, or overcoming emotional challenges. They provide therapy and counselling, but they cannot prescribe medication.

Psychologists are degree-qualified and trained to assess, diagnose, and treat mental illnesses. Clinical psychologists have a Masters or Doctorate and focus on the diagnosis and treatment of more complex mental health conditions. They both provide therapy and counselling, but they cannot prescribe medication.

Counsellors are generally diploma qualified, and are trained to help people with personal problems such as relationship issues, trauma, or grief. They provide counselling and support, but they cannot assess, diagnose, or treat mental illness and they cannot prescribe medication.

Peer workers are people who have lived experience with mental illness, and ideally are qualified with a Certificate IV Peer Work. They provide support and guidance to others who are going through similar experiences, including role modelling behaviour. They can also link you with higher level clinical supports if needed.

Support workers are qualified at minimum through a Certificate III in Support and provide emotional support to individuals experiencing mental health concerns.

Now, what about the Mental Health Care Plan that I have heard people talking about?

To obtain one, you'll start by visiting your GP. They will assess your mental health needs and, if necessary, refer you to the appropriate mental health professional. Your GP will work collaboratively with you to create a personalised Mental Health Care Plan. This plan typically includes a specific number of subsidised sessions with mental health professionals, and may involve psychologists, counsellors, or psychiatrists, (or maybe even a mix) depending on your individual needs.

As Mental Health Month unfolds, remember that seeking help is a commendable (and courageous) step toward a healthier, happier you. Mental health professionals are here to support you, and they recognise that your wellbeing is a priority.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses Mental Health Month and the One Foot Forward Challenge for the Black Dog Institute.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

As the calendar flips to October, a month of real significance unfolds – it's Mental Health Month, and here in Queensland, we kick it off with Queensland Mental Health Week from the 7th to the 15th. This year's Mental Health Week theme, 'Awareness, belonging, connection,' underscores the importance of fostering a sense of belonging and providing a space for conversations about mental wellbeing. It's an invitation to unite, learn, and support one another on our mental health journeys. My plan therefore during the month is to use this column to raise awareness and understanding about mental health and wellbeing within our community.

This week, I wanted to give a big shout out to our team at IMPACT Community Services, who are committed to making a real difference during this Mental Health Month. We've taken up the Black Dog Institute's One Foot Forward Campaign, a challenge that encourages us to walk with purpose. This campaign is a step toward understanding, empathy, and support for the one in five Australians who experience a mental illness every year.

The One Foot Forward Campaign invites participants to set their own goals, be it 40km, 60km, 100km, 150km, or any distance that feels right to them. This symbolic journey reflects the real-life struggles faced by those living with mental health issues. By taking part, we not only raise awareness but also crucial funds for mental health research and support services provided by the Black Dog Institute.

I believe that our collective efforts can make a real impact. To capture the essence of our mission, I've asked some of IMPACT’s dedicated team members to share their thoughts on being part of this challenge:

Zoe Hastie: “I signed myself and the organisation up for this event because I want to help create a better future for those living with mental illness, including myself. There are still so many unknowns in mental health and the more research that can be conducted now, the stronger and more informed future generations will be.”

Amanda Ryan: " I am taking part because I have experienced mental health issues personally and don’t want anyone ever to feel alone and lost like I did and so am giving back to help support others."

To support our team and contribute to the cause, please visit www.onefootforward.org.au/fundraisers/impactcommunityservices and sponsor us. Every step we take, every dollar we raise, brings us closer to creating a society where mental health is a priority, and no one walks alone.

Join us as we put One Foot Forward on this journey throughout October, a month dedicated to improving community awareness and understanding of mental health and wellbeing. Together, we can make a difference—one step at a time.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses mattering.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

We all want to matter — mattering is a fundamental human desire that can significantly influence our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Mattering isn't just a personal pursuit; it's a community endeavour that can uplift individuals, schools, workplaces, and our community.

At its core, mattering is the feeling that we are a significant part of the world around us. It's the belief that we are noticed, important, and needed right now. When we make others feel this way, we not only improve their lives but also strengthen the bonds that hold our communities together.

Research has shown that experiencing mattering has a multitude of benefits. It boosts self-esteem, fostering confidence in one's worth. It even increases serotonin levels, often referred to as the "confidence molecule," which can positively influence our overall mood and reduce anxiety.

Moreover, mattering provides us with a sense of purpose, triggering the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin – the "happiness trifecta." These chemicals not only control our mood but also motivate us to contribute to our communities.

So, how can we create experiences of mattering? Studies have identified three key components: attention, importance, and dependence. Attention means realising that others notice us and care about what's happening in our lives. Importance is feeling uniquely significant and valued, while dependence involves knowing that someone relies on us.

Individually, we can make a difference by ensuring that the people around us regularly feel noticed, important, and needed. In schools, it means emphasising to every student that their presence completes the classroom. In workplaces, it's about recognising that each person and their work are essential for the whole. In our communities, we must work towards rebuilding systems that affirm the dignity and value of every individual.

Mattering is not a one-size-fits-all concept; it's deeply personal. It's about fostering connections, offering kindness, and acknowledging the unique contributions of each person in our lives. It is about taking notice, being prepared to look outside our own internal world and recognising the value being created by someone else. It may seem insignificant at the time, yet the impact that we can have on others – it can be truly powerful. Creating households, neighbourhoods, communities, workplaces, schools, and even a nation where every single person felt like they mattered to someone else.

Simple, effective, lifechanging. Each of us playing a role in the change that we would like to see.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses Liptember and how 'the lipstick effect' drives the agenda on women's mental health.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

It’s amazing the power that something as simple as a bright shade of lipstick can hold. I recently read an article sharing the story behind Liptember, and the campaign to drive the agenda on women’s mental health.

The statistics speak for themselves. In 2022, the Liptember Foundation's research revealed that one in two Australian women struggled with mental illness last year, with one in four of those facing a severe form of mental illness. What’s more, only 49% of women will seek help because they don’t have the time or money to get help, or are too ashamed to admit they’re struggling.

These numbers are not just figures; they represent the lives and well-being of our mothers, sisters, friends, and colleagues.

Despite these staggering statistics, there's a silver lining. The power of a simple lipstick, or as economists put it, "The Lipstick Effect," can be harnessed for good. The Liptember Foundation has turned this concept into a ray of hope. By encouraging women to add a pop of colour to their lips during September, we're not only boosting our own spirits but also starting a conversation about mental health that needs to be had.

Until recently, mental health research and support services often lacked a gender-specific lens, even though women are 58% more likely than men to experience mental illness. We know women's mental health can be influenced by a multitude of factors – biological, psychological, social, and cultural. From menstruation to menopause, pregnancy to cancer, each life stage presents unique challenges. But it's not just biology; it's also societal and cultural pressures that affect women's mental well-being.

The Liptember Foundation, founded in 2010, has stepped in to fill this crucial gap. To date, they've raised over $14 million that has helped to deliver research, programs, and services tailored to the unique needs of women across Australia.

You can read more about Liptember at liptember.com.au.

Good mental health isn't merely the absence of illness; it's the ability to engage fully and effectively in society. By supporting Liptember, we're not just raising awareness; we're contributing to a brighter, more mentally healthy future for all women.

The Outback Mind Foundation, together with IMPACT Community Services, is hosting a free Mental Health Workshop.

About The Outback Mind Foundation

The Foundation exists to empower men throughout regional Australia to live healthier, happier, and more connected lives. With the climbing rates of mental health issues and male suicide, the Foundation works to proactively get ahead of the problem, providing men with the tools and solutions to find self-awareness and reach their full potential.

Learn more: The Outback Mind Foundation | Where Men's Mental Health Matters

The Workshop

Complimentary light snacks and refreshments available.

The workshop aims to provide:

Content Warning:

The mental health workshop and documentary will touch on sensitive topics and lived experiences of suicide. We acknowledge that this may be triggering for some individuals. There will be support and guidance available throughout the workshop from people with lived experiences to ensure a safe and supportive environment for everyone involved.

Registration Details:

Register now to secure your place. Please note: places are limited. In the event that we reach full capacity, you will be notified if an additional session will be scheduled.

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses glimmers, and how they can help us to fill our emotional cup.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

It’s pleasing that in today’s society, we are starting to talk openly about our mental health. Prioritising the importance of our mental wellbeing and shining a light on the source of a person’s pain. With this comes a desire to better understand what might be sitting behind a person’s reaction or behaviour. When people are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or emotional, we usually become curious about what might have set them off, perhaps using words like trigger or trauma or even fear to make sense of what may be going on.

Looking for and expecting to be surrounded by triggers on a daily basis has become our modus operandi, and depending on the day and what is going on for us, we may be more or less affected. I was therefore delighted to learn recently that there is an opposite reaction to trigger, a concept that’s delightful and uplifting and personally, warms my heart. The alternative is glimmer, an internal or external cue that brings you have to a sense or joy or safety. Think a smile from a stranger, a beautiful sunset or seeing a picture of your pet.

Often, we are encouraged to be grateful, and each day I personally write down three things that I am grateful for. I have a diary that I keep these in, and I am up to 131 consecutive days; I’m finding that my gratitude bucket is overflowing! It’s a lovely practice and the power of it cannot be understated, however some days it’s more like a thing to cross off my to do list than a genuine reflection of gratitude and can therefore feel like a bit of a chore.

Glimmers, those fragments of joy scattered throughout our days, hold an extraordinary power – the power to fill our emotional cups. Like droplets of positivity, they accumulate, gradually enriching our lives with a sense of contentment and resilience. Just as a cup is filled sip by sip, these glimmers, whether in the form of a kind gesture, breathtaking view, or a heartwarming connection, gradually replenish our inner selves.

I was therefore heartened to learn about glimmer and have flipped my practice to instead note some of those precious moments of glimmer that I experience in my day, like:

Every day we each experience these tiny moments of glimmer. These tiny moments of warmth in our hearts, a small rush of joy through our veins. Please don’t let them pass you by, and instead pause, and suck in those moments. Take notice of them, notice the feeling that you experience, write them down so that you remember them, and come back to them when you need them. That moment is unique to you and has the power to change the way that you experience what is happening around you.  

What glimmer have you experienced today?

"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses deep listening.

By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea

Tanya O'Shea, IMPACT Community Services Managing Director

Dadirri, a word from the Ngan'gikurunggurr and Ngen'giwumirri languages of the Aboriginal people of the Daly River region. My initial introduction to this word was unexpected, shared with me after expressing a desire to be more consistent with my meditation practice. More than just doing it, meditation provides an opportunity to contemplate and create space for the deep listening that can occur from within. Deep listening involves more than words, instead tapping into the deeper meaning that includes unspoken needs and feelings.

Too often, we are using our head to guide our decisions and interpret the world around us. We are looking for answers from outside – seeking solutions, asking questions, hoping that someone else will step in, perhaps even step up and take responsibility. If that was the answer, people would be easily able to navigate through the complexities of life and most of the population would be experiencing a state of flourishing or mental wellbeing. Instead, research suggests that only 20% of the population experience states of flourishing at any one time (Keyes, 2005).

What if deep listening provided an alternative way?

Aboriginal writer and senior elder Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann describes deep listening as:

"Dadirri is inner, deep listening and quiet, still awareness. Dadirri recognises the deep spring that is inside us. We call on it and it calls to us. This is the gift that Australia is thirsting for. It’s something like what you call 'contemplation'.”

Shirleen Campbell, proud Warlpiri and Arrente woman and third generation resident of Alice Springs Town Camp, Lhenpe Artnwe (of Hoppy’s Camp) is a family and domestic violence activist who shares her own story of deep listening. ‘In Aboriginal culture, our country and its landscape are our classroom. We connect to country as we learn and grow as adults. Our country is always ready to teach our mob and look after us.’ Shirleen refers to a painting entitled Deep Listening, that shows two grandmothers, sitting around the campfire surrounded by young boys and girls using deep listening to learn about country. This year, NAPCAN is using this beautiful artwork to prompt deep listening with children and families and to begin conversations in communities about connection, culture and belonging.

I understand. Taking time out for introspection and understand the practice of deep listening may seem to be a luxury that few can afford at the minute. Taking time to put down the phone, and just be. Taking time to walk in nature, swim in the ocean, plant the soles of your feet on the earth. Lying on the grass, looking up at the stars, holding the hand of someone you love. And allowing yourself a moment to pause, and just listen. Notice what is coming up for you in that moment. Notice how you feel, without judgement. Nothing that you need to do, nothing that you need to hold onto, just a willingness to open yourself and your heart to whatever comes next.

Too often we rely on our head to make sense of things. Yet what I am slowly learning, is that our head is limited in its capacity to provide what we often need. Our head is simply a computer processor, often bringing up thoughts that are unhelpful or choices that do not always serve us. However, there is an alternative, and that involves connecting to our heart and our soul, which, not surprisingly, will boost the power to our brain. Building community by encouraging people to explore and learn from the ancient heritage of Aboriginal culture, knowledge and understanding.

Creating better decisions, kinder humans, greater consideration for ourselves, the people around us and the land that supports us. I don’t think we can afford not to do it.

Navigating the Mental Health System with tips and insights

In an era overshadowed by mental health challenges, this month's "Stronger Together" podcast by IMPACT Community Services is a call to action.

Host Tanya O'Shea challenges organisations, mental health experts, and community leaders. It's not just about recognising mental health issues; it's about taking action against the growing crisis.

We're joined by Jannene Thorn, Manager for Mental Health at IMPACT. Together, they highlight the crucial role of Peer Support Workers. These individuals, shaped by their personal journeys and compassion, bridge the gap between those facing challenges and the support they need.

Why is peer support so vital? And how can organisations leverage it for real change? We address these questions, emphasising the need for systemic shifts and shared responsibility. Are you struggling with your mental health or stuck on a waiting list? This episode will give you insight into navigating the mental health system, and how you can access support while you wait.

Need help now?

It's not just about recognising the mental health challenges; it's about taking proactive steps to address the escalating mental health crisis.

Please note: This website may contain references to, or feature images, videos, and voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who have passed away.

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