Headspace Knox celebrates 10 years

headspace Knox are celebrating 10 years serving youth in the community. PICTURE: Stewart Chambers 364572_02

By Tanya Faulkner

The ambition of Headspace Knox remains ‘with and for the youth’ as the local community service celebrates 10 years in the community.

Headspace Knox has been serving local youths for the past decade, with the focus on improving the lives of youths and their families and providing support to those who need it most.

Headspace Knox and Lilydale services manager Lana Clark said their core values are what have made Headspace what it is in the municipality.

“We have got really committed, passionate, engaging staff who love working with young people and making the service really accessible and welcoming to young people in the community.

“We have an open door policy so any young person can come in, and we do our best to find the best service for them – whether that’s through us or another in the community,” she said.

According to Ms Clark, headspace services young people from 12 to 25 years in the Knox, Yarra Ranges, Maroondah and surrounding communities with a range of services.

“What we can do depends on the needs of the young person,it could be multiple things or just one.

“We have lots of programs on site including counselling, links to extra support in the community, work and placement support, help with resumes or finding work in their local community, a range of mental health services, our L2P to help learner drivers get their 120 hours, and we have several GPs connected with us,” she said.

Headspace Knox team leader of intake and brief intervention Chris Morley said there is also a range of staff on site to support youth.

“There are a range of expertise on site like psychologists, youth and social workers and nursing staff.

“We have a different worker to suit each different young person and their needs.

“Our primary aim is to help young people come into the service and feel safe, comfortable with talking to us about issues and trauma, and allowing us to help address their issues,” he said.

The last decade has seen several changes in the community, with the growth of social media, introduction of new platforms, shifting the way youth communicate and speak out.

Ms Clark said whilst conversations are increasing in the community, it’s essential for locals to be aware of the support available to them.

“Stigmatisation around mental health has decreased over the years, and young people have more language to talk about their needs.

“Families are being able to support their kids more, and we have lots of parents contacting us about our services for their kids.

“As society changes some of the issues change, particularly with social media becoming more prevalent these days, which have changed some of the issues young people come to us with,” she said.

Mr Morley said although there has been more of a community push to understand more about mental health and bring it to the forefront of our thinking, there is still some resistance to admit people are struggling with mental health.

“There’s not as much as there used to be, but it’s still there.

“Social media platforms have led to more people self-diagnosing themselves with mental illnesses, and will come to us seeking more information.

“They can then talk about it with us, and we help them to break it down and figure it out – most of the time their diagnosis is wrong and we give them the support they need.

“It’s only through discussion that you can get to the bottom of things, and that is what we are trying to encourage in the community.

Headspace Knox and Lilydale Community engagement coordinator Jasmine Scampton said a key focus for them is keeping youths at the centre of everything they do, and increasing awareness in the community.

“We’ve had a really positive response in the community, even when we go into schools and start discussions on how many people have heard of headspace – a lot of young people have heard the name.

“Last year we partnered with organisations in Yarra Ranges to co-run the rainbow ball for the kids, and we co-ran an event in Box Hill with a range of Knox organisations too.

“We love getting out to festivals and going out to local schools and getting to know who they are,” she said.

Ms Clark said headspace also has their Youth Action Force (YAF) group, which acts as a governing body for the headspace centre, and is facilitated by Ms Scampton.

“The group is made up of young people from the community and they become the voice of what we do, including our events and services.

“They give us their advice on what our services are and how we should run them.

“It’s a great way for us to ensure that young people stay at the centre of what we do, and make sure our services cater to what our youths need,” she said.

Ms Scampton said local youth are really entrenched in everything they do.

“Recently we asked them for advice on our upcoming renovations we have coming up, like what colour scheme we should do.

“The young people are very much a priority of everything we do, and we run everything through the youth to make sure it’s focused on them,” she said.

Mr Morely said no matter what, their goal is to remain relevant to the youth of the community, and keep them at the forefront of their services.

“We are working with young kids in a more holistic way, addressing how they are feeling, finding out more about what’s happening in their lives, at school, and their connections, to try and pick up the gaps.

“Our focus is staying youth friendly and relevant to the Knox community.

“Things change quickly, and we get older, so we need to continue to listen to the young people so we can still respond in the appropriate way, and be easily reachable for youths in the area,” he said.

Covid-19 proved to be a blessing and a curse for headspace Knox, making several adjustments to the way they serviced the community.

Mr Morely said flexibility was a key factor to keep the centre running.

“We had to be more up to speed on the issues our young people and their families were having, particularly during and since Covid-19.

“It meant we had to be very flexible in the community, and our youths and their families had to be very flexible with us.

“We still want to see young people coming through the door and be able to meet their needs based on what they say they need as much as we can,” he said.

Not only did their services see a shift during the Covid pandemic, Ms Clark said Headspace also opened their second site in the Yarra Valley to support their Knox centre.

“We opened our satellite site in Lilydale two years ago, and had our launch event last year.

“It’s another one of our successes, being able to open that site and work closely between the teams.

“It makes it easier to cater to kids in the Yarra Ranges, particularly those who struggle to find transport to our Knox site,” she said.

Headspace has made a significant impact in the Hills community over the years, with their recent statistics proving to be very positive.

Ms Clark said they have only been tracking local data since 2019 when their database was created, and it’s been very successful.

“Since 2019, between Knox and Lilydale, we have had 23,000 points of service, where a youth has come in for counselling, work and study support, or other support from our services.

“That adds up to approximately 8,000 young people between Knox and Lilydale that have come to headspace since 2019 alone,” she said.

Those thousands of service points cover a wide range of issues, which Mr Morely said wouldn’t be possible without all of the support they’ve received over the years.

“We work with a range of issues from anxiety and sadness right through to trauma.

“Our team has experienced a lot of trauma with kids and families, having a really supportive close team and support from the community helps us deal with all of that,” he said.

Mr Morely said being in the mental health and support industry means their team come across a range of different issues, situations and experiences.

“We are really passionate about what we do and supporting our community.

“It’s really important for us to acknowledge the incredible journeys people have come on to be able to walk through our doors.

“It really touches us, and is a responsibility that weighs heavily on our team to try and meet each different need as best as we can.

“Mental health is such a big issue in our community, and we admit as much as we try, there are times that we can’t help as much as we want to,” he said.

For Mr Morely, the 10th birthday is a time to remember those things that haven’t gone as well as the team would have hoped.

“We want to recognise those times, and make sure we keep on improving our services to really give the community the best support,” he said.

After 10 long years in the Knox community, Ms Clark said the centre is in due need of a refresh.

“We have renovations happening in the next couple of months that we hope to have finished by the end of the year.

“We have also received enhancement money for our Lilydale site from the Federal Government to build on that site and increase our footprint in the Hills.

“This means we’ll be able to see more people in the Yarra Ranges community too,” he said.

Members of the community have expressed their appreciation for headspace over recent weeks, including Federal Member for Casey, Aaron Violi who recently paid a visit to the centre.

“It’s wonderful to see headspace Knox and Lilydale celebrating their 10th birthday.

“They have played a vital role supporting young people in our community.

“I look forward to continuing to support headspace to carry on their amazing work,” he said.

Headspace Knox are located at Westfield Knox, more information can be found at headspace.org.au/headspace-centres/knox/