Waltja’s Family Mental Health program began in 2014, and is funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services. It is a program to support families who are worried about their children’s mental health. Waltja supports families to help their young people from 0-18 years old to be strong in mind and spirit. We work in Santa Teresa (Ltyentye Apurte), Titjikala, and Finke (Apatula). Erin Turner and Charles Tako are Waltja’s Family Mental Health Fieldworkers. Kate Lawrence is the Program Manager.
Margaret Orr, a past Waltja Exec member, is the cultural mentor for Family Mental Health. She helped to set the program up in a good way, involving community members in the three communities. An important part of the program is the employment of community workers as well as fieldworkers. The community workers are Matthew Alice, Jeanette Ungwanaka and Clarissa Young. Anne-Marie McMillan also provides support to the program. These workers are a constant presence in each community helping young people to talk about their problems, to tell their stories, and supporting them to get help if they need it.
The way field workers and community workers support each other and learn from each other has been very positive. All the team have done training together, learning counselling skills, about all the mental health services and supports and good ways to deal with bullying. The team has found this really useful to help them in understanding children and how to work with them in a good way.
Taking groups of young women and young men out of the community on bush trips or camps has been very helpful. The young boys and young girls felt they could relax and talk more freely out on country and away from others in the community.
The team is one of the organisations invited to test a new app called “Stay Strong”. It lets young people use an i-pad and to use the app to think about their strengths, the people in their life who can support them, and what helps to keep them strong. Some young people have been interested to try the app so far.
More people are getting smart phones and internet access is getting easier than in the past.This is good, but it also brings problems like cyber bullying, and easier access to pornographic material and the pressure to experiment. Young people need to learn how to deal with this pressure, and build the confidence to say no.
There is a lot of ganja (marijuana) and grog around in communities, and again pressure on children and young people to experiment and then become regular users. There is then pressure on family members who have access to resources to pay for ganja and grog for family members who are users.