By NADIA DIMATTINA
One in seven young Australians experience a mental health condition. A group of students have taken this issue into their own hands, creating a new non-profit mental health organisation.
University students Seamus Carr and Anthony Luca founded the youth mental health organisation Colouring Clouds out of a shared passion to bring about change in the sector.
“It’s been an aspiration of mine, even when I was in high school, to do something because I thought there were lots of good organisations out there, which is really good, but I thought there wasn’t anything that was truly relatable,” Mr Carr said.
“We both thought a lot of issues which were associated with mental illness within our youth hadn’t been addressed as much as they should be, like employment, gender norms, education, identity and belonging.”
Their aim – along with fellow organisation members Adrian Pacione, Chantal Katerelos, Schae Zarew and Megan Chadwick – is to address the mental health issue early by providing support for sufferers, creating educational programs and funding further research.
Unlike other mental health organisations, the volunteers at Colouring Clouds are all university students fitting in the age bracket of their target audience.
“Every single person on our committee is under the age of 25, which was intentional, because we wanted the people we are serving to relate entirely to what we preach,” Mr Carr said.
Mr Carr said there were many mental health organisations but nothing that was truly relatable for young people.
“A lot of those organisations such as beyondblue and Bully Zero, they are often run by people who are middle-aged in a corporate background, which is something that a lot of young people would see and they wouldn’t be able to relate to,” he said.
The organisation’s five-year plan aims to raise awareness by taking it further than other organisations.
In 2018, Colouring Clouds plans to launch a number of programs and activities to serve their mission of supporting and advancing the welfare of young people suffering from depression and anxiety.
They plan to develop an education program for secondary school students, establish expression classes and collate research grants for students studying the field of mental health.
“We want to establish appropriate educational programs to assist people to understand how their mental health works, the rights they have and what to do when you are suffering from anxiety or depression,” Mr Carr said.
“We want to introduce it at a level when they are still learning and they still understand because we believe that we are intervening too late in people’s lives.”
Colouring Clouds have already had their first fundraiser Max Out for Mental Health, which was a power-lifting contest with a fee to compete and spectate.
The organisation raised $1200 with more than 60 competitors taking part and lots of spectators.
“It exceeded my expectations. I was taken aback by how many people were invested in the subject and so willing to participate,” Mr Carr said.
As a relatively new organisation, Colouring Clouds is building awareness through their social media platform on Facebook.
“[Social media] is so important in anything you do. It’s one of those things that society has evolved around. It’s the main form of information of communicating. In the era that we live in, people feel more comfortable communicating through text,” Carr said.
Being university students with assignment deadlines, exams and work, the charity members agreed running an organisation wasn’t easy.
“We have funded this out of our own pocket and we have done this out of our own innovation and initiative,” Mr Carr said.
But they also agreed it was worth it.
“Everyone genuinely cares about this and it helps that we are all really close to make conversation a lot easier and personalised, but everyone has their own reasons and personal stories for being here,” he said.
“We all really want to solve this issue.”