Positive T-Shirts

Podcast 024: Positive T-Shirts

Founder Positive T-Shirts

Neil Milton is the founder of Positive T-Shirts which is a social enterprise-giving all profits towards preventing youth suicide. Neil is a public speaker, motivator and novice social media junky. Neil also is the General Manager for another not-for-profit working to prevent harm and abuse of children. He has worked in some of the roughest schools in Adelaide as a youth worker and has also had a stint working for life line.

His motto in life is “one day at a time”

Neil enjoys hanging out with his wife and children, also exercising, when he gets out of bed!

Positive T-Shirts

The Positive T-Shirt brand birthed in 2016 out of a passion to create t-shirts and other apparel that literally change lives as you wear it and as others see it. That’s why profits of products sold go towards preventing youth suicide.

All profits raised are donated to in2life which helps fund the training of volunteers who support young people, through their facebook group ‘coming together to prevent youth suicide‘. Donations also support school programs enabling young people with the skills needed to help their friends, who may be struggling.

In todays episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast Aaron speaks with Neil about his journey to founding Positive T-Shirts. We discuss why Neil decided to support the cause of suicide prevention and how you can get a great bit of merchandise to aid the cause.


Today’s resources

Here are links that have bearing on todays podcast.

Contact Neil and the Positive T-Shirt team

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

  • Share this cast with a friend or colleague.
  • Leave a note in the comment section below.
  • Share this show on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help the podcast and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes.

Podcast 023: Supporting Someone who is Suicidal

Suicide Awareness

In this episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast ‘Supporting Someone who is Suicidal’ Aaron speaks with us about how we as youth workers can support young people who are suicidal. In Australia, Suicide is the leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds. 7.5% 0f 12-17 year olds have had serious suicidal thoughts. As youth workers we are prime candidates to provide a first response to these issues. 

Supporting Someone who is Suicidal

In todays episode Aaron speak about the current rates of suicide of young people in Australia and then walks us through the suicide action plan.

  • Asking direct questions
  • Assessing the urgency
  • Keeping young people safe, creating safety plans and
  • Getting professional help.
Suicidal Thought can be prevented

Suicide is one of the many topics that we do not usually speak about as a society. There are many myths and legends which have been perpetuated about suicide. We hope you never have to use the knowledge in todays cast, but we also want you to have the best plan of action if you ever find yourself in the situation of supporting someone who is suicidal.  

If you or anyone you are working with is having suicidal thoughts please seek professional help. Call Lifeline attend, a GP appointment or get in touch with a psychologist. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Stomp on these thoughts early.


Today’s resources

Here are links to some articles and training that have bearing on todays podcast.

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

  • Share this cast with a friend or colleague.
  • Leave a note in the comment section below.
  • Share this show on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help the podcast and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes.
Alternative career

Alternative career and Ultimate Youth Workers

Alternative career

Alternative Career Choices

Today marks seven years of Ultimate Youth Worker. Our birthday if you like. During this time I always like to gain some perspective on life, business and youth work in general. It is always an interesting time of introspection for an extrovert like me. I have to dig in to my heart and soul, carve away all the minutia and examine my life as fully as I can. My reflection has led me to think about my alternative career.

Last week I took to the bush. It is a place of peace for me and it helps me to get into a space of reflection. I only took the very basics with me. This isn’t a time of luxury but more of a monastic experience. Alone in the wilderness I thought of all that has been achieved by Ultimate Youth Worker over the past year. The training we have run, the people we have supervised and coached, the opportunities and the failures. In my reflection I wondered if the work we are doing had met needs of the sector. I wondered if the youth sector in Australia needs an organisation like ours.

Alternative careersI was also wondering if I am in the right place as the leader of this organisation. I asked myself a question that I am often asked, ‘if you weren’t a youth worker, what would you be?’. In my solitude I thought of the early days of my youth work career on camps and day trips. As a young man I thought my career was going to be in the military. I trained in land navigation, hiking and a bunch of other skills for that career. These skills all came in handy during those early years. Perhaps I could be a wilderness guide??? I love the outdoors and the solitude it provides. There is something primal about being alone in the bush that brings you to a place of reflection. I learnt many skills in those early days which I still use today. Leadership. Self-reliance. Team work.

Alternative careerToday, I find myself working on my car. I had to change my battery as it was dead. I looked at the engine bay and had a moment where I thought I should just call roadside assistance to have them do it. Then I reflected on my first career choice. You see, before I became a youth worker I was a mechanic apprentice. I loved cars, particularly Ford V8’s, and it seemed like I could bring my passion for cars together with a means of making money. I didn’t last very long. I loved working on cars, I hated working to such short timeframes as people wanting their cars back in an hour.

As a youth worker I have used my former career choices many times over. I have run more camps and day trips than I care to remember. I have hiked thousands of kilometres and used all my skills in bushcraft and survival. I have fixed cars on the side of the road between sessions. I have even helped people get their keys out of cars they had locked them in. I have used my knowledge to engage young people and build conversations.

I currently find myself out of direct practice and in the space of education. Spending my time between educating new student youth workers and training youth workers in the field. Being an educator is an alternative career than where I saw myself going. But, it is where I know I am meant to be. My other career options have all led me to where I am today. The skills and knowledge I have gained over the years have led to the way I educate newbie youth workers and support seasoned veterans.


Seven years ago I embarked on an alternative career by building Ultimate Youth Worker. Becoming a small business owner in the human service industry is not what I had been educated to do, but it was what I felt led to do. Over that time we have had ups and downs. We almost closed in 2014 as the sector was hit with massive budget cuts. Hired our first staff member in 2017. Overall, we have tried to do things differently. Much of this drive has come from learnings from alternative careers.

So on this our birthday I want to recommit to you all. While this project was an alternative career seven years ago, it is now my main focus. I want to see a sector that is well supported. I want youth workers who feel that they can get the support they need to be the best. I want to help you all to become Ultimate Youth Workers.

As we move in to our eighth year of serving youth workers we are going to be focusing on four areas. Mental health, Self Care, Training and Professional Youth Work. You will see our podcasts focus on these areas. We will begin to create more videos to help  you in these four areas. Our products and services will fall into those four categories as well. These four areas have become our most read posts and our most listened to podcasts so it is our

ChildSafe

Podcast 022: Is your workplace ChildSafe?

Is your workplace ChildSafe?
  To support the podcast, you can donate here.

Is your workplace ChildSafe?

In this episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast ‘Is your workplace ChildSafe?’ Aaron speaks with Neil Milton about how we as youth workers can support young people by being ChildSafe. Neil Milton is the General Manager of ChildSafe. Neil has worked as a youth worker in schools, churches and Not for Profits across Australia. He has also worked for World Vision and has his own street clothing business helping prevent youth suicide. Neil is passionate about making sure children are protected from abuse and harm and that organisations know their responsibilities in regards to child safety. Neil is a public speaker, motivator and he enjoys exercising and hanging out with his wife and kids.

In todays episode Aaron and Neil speak about the work of ChildSafe Australia and their mission to serve organisations and individuals working with children and vulnerable people, with the goal of improving their well-being and safety. We take our commitment to child safety very seriously at Ultimate Youth Worker and have used many of the resources from ChildSafe to help us in making our commitment tangible.

ChildSafe is “a harm prevention charity for the promotion of the prevention and control of behaviour that is harmful or abusive to children and young people when in the care of an organisation”. Children and young people deserve the best endeavours of an organisation towards their safety. This involves more than good intentions, or the assumption that harmful incidents will not happen. Organisations working with children are under increased community scrutiny in relation to screening workers, risk management and the quality of care they offer.

You can find more information about Neil on LinkedIn.

Today’s resources

Here are links to some articles and training that have bearing on todays podcast.

Thanks for Listening!

To support the podcast, you can donate here.

To share your thoughts:

  • Share this cast with a friend or colleague.
  • Leave a note in the comment section below.
  • Share this show on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help the podcast and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes.
  • Do the online ChildSafe Training

Preventing child abuse, how can we do it?

There are 42 articles in the Convention of the Rights of the Child that are predominately centred around the idea that parents and governments are responsible for the physical and emotional safety of children. The convention states that children have a right to feel safe from any type of harm. As parents, mentors, teachers, youth workers or anyone else who is in a position of authority, it is our responsibility to uphold this right. Unfortunately, children are still being harmed.

It’s hard to believe that in a country like Australia, there is still a frightening amount of children experiencing child abuse each year. In Australia between 2016–17, 168,352 children received child protection services, a rate of 30.8 per 1,000 children aged 0–17. Of children receiving child protection services in 2016–17:

• 119,173 were the subject of an investigation (21.8 per 1,000)

• 64,145 were on a care and protection order (11.7 per 1,000)

• 57,221 were in out-of-home care (10.5 per 1,000).

Specifically in Victoria, 11,077 children were the subject of substantiated investigations, and 11,111 were the subject of investigations that were not substantiated.

The chart below indicates that rates of child abuse have either remained the same or increased over a five year period between 2011 and 2016. Of particular note are the rates of child emotional abuse, which are gradually increasing each year.

Why the increase in rates of emotional abuse?

The increase of rates of emotional abuse could be attributed to the fact that emotional abuse of children became more well recognised after the Royal Commission into Family Violence, and therefore more heavily reported on. Whereas historically, emotional abuse was not always as obvious and was often difficult to identify (compared to physical and sexual abuse).

The Royal Commission into Family Violence was conducted from 2015-2016 and its’ aim was to prevent family violence, improve early intervention, support victims, make perpetrators accountable, better coordinate community and government responses as well as evaluate and measure strategies, frameworks, policies, programs and services. It was established following a series of family violence related deaths in Victoria, most notably – 11 year old Luke Batty – who was killed by his father in February 2014 following a long history of violence perpetrated against his mother, Rosie Batty.

According to the Royal Commission into Family Violence;

The Royal Commission highlighted this issue within the family violence service system and developed recommendations for change. This could explain the increased rates of reported emotional abuse from 2014-2016.

So how do we prevent child abuse? This is a very loaded question and I can’t expect any one person to have the answer. For this reason I’ve asked some professionals within the Ultimate Youth Worker community to share their thoughts on this important topic. They’ve shared their experiences and wisdom from several different perspectives.

The child protection perspective:

  • What do you see as the main factors in the prevention of child abuse? How can we help parents and families to avoid inter-generational abuse?

“When thinking about preventative approaches to child abuse I think it’s constructive to recognise the use of primary, secondary and tertiary services as the platform for better ensuring the safety and well-being of children and reducing the risk of inter-generational abuse and neglect.

All interventions need to be grounded in an understanding of the complex and compounding issues associated with abuse and neglect including (but not limited to); AOD, family violence and mental health factors. The focus should be on the delivery of psycho-education to increase community and public awareness around risk and protective factors for children, their development and healthy family dynamics.

It should also involve the development of intensive programs, strategies and interventions that target already vulnerable families giving them maximum opportunity to break the cycle of violence. Furthermore, these programs must be culturally specific, relatable and engage therapeutic supports and rehabilitation programs to reduce the risk of future harm to families already challenged by the experience of violence.

In some instances, this needs to be balanced with the use of mental health interventions, legal prosecutions and criminal proceedings where necessary and appropriate. This is in order to reduce risk of recidivism and ensure greater responsibility and accountability for those perpetrating harm.”

(Lani, social worker)

The young person’s perspective:

  • What are some of the most common behavioural traits that you see in young people that have experienced abuse or family violence?
“Not trusting adults and going through an extended phase of “testing” when they meet a new adult. A young person might put on different masks at different stages of the testing phase. Initially, they might be very nice, then become very quiet and reserved. Once they feel that you are safe to be around they can often escalate, testing you with all different kinds of challenging behaviours.
One of the most challenging things young people who have experienced violence and abuse face is low self worth and self esteem. They often don’t believe they can be good at anything, so you need to find little things that demonstrate their strengths and reinforce these things.
It’s important to support these young people by consistently being there with positive reinforcement and a protective environment.”
(Nadav, youth worker)

The family/parent perspective:

  • What’s your experience of working with families where abuse has occurred? 

“Most of my contact is with the mother, some of whom are not Australian citizens. These women hold tremendous strength and resilience where their visa status is unknown, access to government income is little or non existent, access to affordable housing is not an option and their rights to their child/ren are questioned by child protection and challenged by the family courts. In some cases, where returning to their country of origin will place the family in danger from relatives, they are overlooked by our family violence refuge and housing systems.

In the face of so much adversity, it is these women that continue to prioritise their child/ren’s safety and continue to parent their children as best they can with little to no resources.

Many women we work with, both CALD and Australian born often don’t understand that they have been experiencing family violence. A large part of our work is assessing immediate safety and risk. We work from a client centred, trauma informed and strengths based framework.

However there is an enormous amount of work (educative model) to explain and unpack their experiences of family violence. We start to introduce these concepts to the women. As we are a crisis service, we hand this over along with the case plans to the refuge for the ongoing family violence case management of the women and children. From there they are linked into group work and victim-survivor advocacy.

It is quite shocking sometimes when speaking to women where there is no understanding that the violence is abuse and a criminal act. It’s about providing information and options and allowing them the space to reflect on their experiences and shift their understanding.”

(Cindy, social worker)

The child’s perspective:

  • How can we help children in the prevention of child abuse?

– Create a safe space within schools and support services that children can feel comfortable within if they need to disclose abuse.

– Encouraging children to speak out if something has happened to them.

– Educating school staff and other professionals (early child care workers, social workers, GPs, nurses, psychologists) to look out for signs of harm/abuse and train them how to navigate a disclosure of abuse.

– Making books available in your service or classroom that promote body safety. Such as books by Jayneen Sanders.

– Having story books available in your service or classroom that discuss family violence.

– Therapeutic work with children and families.

(Sammy, social worker)
It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a multi-faceted approach to keep children safe from harm. This was beautifully highlighted in the responses above. Thank you to all of our members who shared their thoughts and experiences with us today. This isn’t an easy topic to write about and we appreciate the wealth of knowledge our members have to share.
This article isn’t intended to be a definitive answer on how we protect our children from harm. It is intended to start a conversation based on the knowledge of people who deal with this issue on a daily basis. We would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

At Ultimate Youth Worker, we are committed to being a child safe organisation that recognises, respects and promotes children’s rights. Read more about our commitment in our blog. Thank you for taking the time to visit us today, make sure you visit our social media pages and join in the conversation.

Further Reading:

https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/66c7c364-592a-458c-9ab0-f90022e25368/aihw-cws-63.pdf.aspx?inline=true

https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/domestic-violence/family-domestic-sexual-violence-in-australia-2018/data

Non-Suicidal Self Injury (Part 2)

Podcast 021: Non-Suicidal Self Injury (Part Two)

Non-Suicidal Self Injury (Part 2)

To Support the Podcast, you can donate here.

Non-Suicidal Self Injury (Part 2)

Podcast 021 Dr. Claire Kelly
Dr Claire Kelly

In this episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast ‘Non-Suicidal Self Injury Part Two’ Aaron continues to speaks with Dr. Claire Kelly about how we as youth workers can support young people experiencing Non-Suicidal Self Injury.

Dr Claire Kelly is the Director of Curriculum at MHFA Australia and an Honorary Fellow at Deakin University. Claire has been involved with MHFA since 2003, when she first became an instructor while completing her Doctorate at the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University in Canberra, where the program was first developed.

Prior to her current position, Claire was the Youth MHFA Programs Manager for 10 years and also worked on the MHFA Guidelines used to develop Edition 2 of MHFA and YMHFA. Claire’s PhD thesis was written on the mental health literacy of Australian adolescents. Her main passion is the mental health of young people and minimising the impacts that mental health problems can have on development, educational outcomes and long-term functioning. Claire has suffered episodes of depression and anxiety since adolescence, which has been a driver for this work.

In todays episode (Part Two of Two) Aaron and Claire speak about the MHFA guidelines for non-Suicidal Self Injury developed by Mental health First Aid Australia after their ‘Delphi study’ into this area.

Professional youth workers understand that there are many young people who are hurting so bad that they self injure to deal with the turmoil. Unfortunately, not all professional youth workers know how to provide the support these young people need. Todays podcast begins to give us the tools to help the hurt and keep our young people safe.

You can find more information about Claire on LinkedIn.

Today’s resources

Here are links to some articles that have bearing on todays podcast.

Thanks for Listening!

To support the podcast, you can donate here.

To share your thoughts:

  • Share this cast with a friend or colleague.
  • Leave a note in the comment section below.
  • Share this show on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.

To help out the show:

What is NSSI?

I have a story for you to set the scene.

I was working in a residential home on a night shift, there was myself and one other staff in the home with four young people aged between 5 and 16. One of the young people, a female aged 12, had just returned home after being missing for about a week. This particular young person has a history of methamphetamine misuse, depression, sexual exploitation and intentionally harming themselves. Immediately we were on high alert to her state of mind and presentation, offering comfort and making sure she was in a good headspace. Unfortunately, the young person looked physically depleted and was showing signs of instability.

After a brief conversation with the staff she went to the shower and asked to be left alone, something which in normal circumstances would have been a reasonable request. However, I was uncomfortable with how our initial conversations had unfolded and was on high alert. I consulted with the other staff member (who was female) and expressed my concerns. The other staff member did not share the same sense of urgency with regards to my concerns. I took it upon myself to go to the bathroom door and ask how the young person was doing. She did not respond so I told her I was concerned about her and that she should come out and talk some more, by this point the other staff member had arrived to help. A minute or two later, after being told to “fuck off” several times, the door swung open and the young person pushed past us revealing both herself and the bathroom covered in blood.  This was my first brush with NSSI.

What is NSSI?

I can almost guarantee you that at some point in your career you have heard someone talk about “self harm”. If you are like myself or a lot of other youth workers, you would have even had to manage a situation where a young person has intentionally harmed themselves. This is otherwise known as “non-suicidal self injury”.

Non-suicidal self injury (NSSI) refers to the direct, deliberate destruction of ones own body tissue in the absence of intent to die.

Whilst the person may not have the intention of killing themselves, the issue should still be approached seriously and an appropriate care plan should be put in place to support them and minimise further harm. But before we tackle the topic of how to support someone who is self injuring, let’s begin with some of the methods used to self injure.

One of the most common methods for NSSI is the use of objects to cut the skin, such as; razor blades, glass, knives and almost any sharp object that can be found to cause harm. Other common methods people use are scratching, deliberately hitting body parts on hard surfaces and punching, hitting or slapping themselves. Less common methods include biting and burning.

Here are a few facts about NSSI from Mental Health First-Aid Australia.

So why do people engage in NSSI?

There are a myriad of reasons but from my own personal experience working with young people the most common reason they tell me is that it’s the only thing they feel they have control over. As I mostly work with young people in out-of-home care, this makes a lot of sense. Other reasons include;

  • Attempting to manage painful feelings
  • They feel the need to punish themselves
  • To communicate with others
How do I help someone engaging in NSSI?

Firstly you have to assess if someone may be harming themselves. This might include noticing blood on their clothing, they might be wearing long clothing in warm weather or they may be using medical supplies faster than usual. If you suspect there is an issue then ask them directly, also ask about suicidal thoughts but be sure to not express any disgust or threaten punishment as this can cause further damage. 

Next you want to assist them in whatever way you can can. If you have immediate concerns for their safety then you might need to offer first aid or even call an ambulance. If the concerns don’t require medical attention, we can continue to offer support in other ways. 

In the Youth Mental Health First Aid course you will learn the following acronym that will help you support someone who is engaging in NSSI. The acronym is ALGEE.

Using these steps as a guide, it is important to choose the right time and place to approach a young person about your concerns. When listening, be conscious of your body language and tone and try to be non-judgmental. Arm yourself with knowledge about appropriate support networks that they can tap in to to help minimise future risk. This could include family or even the kids helpline. When encouraging professional support, consider how you can help to facilitate this and what else you could do if they refused. If they do refuse professional help you could encourage self-help methods such as meditation.

Where can I learn more?

If you wish to further your understanding of NSSI we would highly recommend attending a Youth Mental Health First Aid course with Ultimate Youth Worker. In this course we cover the content above a lot deeper plus a range of other mental health issues experienced by young people. I took this course myself last year and it has given me invaluable knowledge and resources to take with me on my youth work journey.

Thank you for taking the time to read about NSSI, please post any questions or comments you may have below or on our social media platforms.

Further Resources

Non-Suicidal Self Injury with Dr. Claire Kelly (Part 1)

Non-Suicidal Self Injury with Dr. Claire Kelly (Part 2)

Non-Suicidal Self Injury

Podcast 020: Non-Suicidal Self Injury (Part One)

Non-Suicidal Self Injury
To Support the Podcast, you can donate here.

Non-Suicidal Self Injury

In this episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast ‘Non-Suicidal Self Injury Part One’ Aaron speaks with Dr. Claire Kelly about her work at Mental Health First Aid Australia and in particular her work in the space of Non-Suicidal Self Injury.

Dr Claire Kelly is the Director of Curriculum at MHFA Australia and an Honorary Fellow at Deakin University. Claire has been involved with MHFA since 2003, when she first became an instructor while completing her Doctorate at the Centre for Mental Health Research at the Australian National University in Canberra, where the program was first developed. Prior to her current position, Claire was the Youth MHFA Programs Manager for 10 years and also worked on the MHFA Guidelines used to develop Edition 2 of MHFA and YMHFA. Claire’s PhD thesis was written on the mental health literacy of Australian adolescents. Her main passion is the mental health of young people and minimising the impacts that mental health problems can have on development, educational outcomes and long-term functioning. Claire has suffered episodes of depression and anxiety since adolescence, which has been a driver for this work.

In todays episode (Part One of Two) Aaron and Claire speak about Non-Suicidal Self Injury and the MHFA guidelines for non-Suicidal Self Injury developed by Mental health First Aid Australia after their ‘Delphi study’ into this area.

Professional youth workers understand that there are many young people who are hurting so bad that they self injure to deal with the turmoil. Unfortunately, not all professional youth workers know how to provide the support these young people need. Todays podcast begins to give us the tools to help the hurt and keep our young people safe.

You can find more information about Claire on LinkedIn.

Today’s resources

Here are links to some articles that have bearing on todays podcast.

Thanks for Listening!

To support the podcast, you can donate here.

To share your thoughts:

  • Share this cast with a friend or colleague.
  • Leave a note in the comment section below.
  • Share this show on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.

To help out the show:

What are eating disorders?

Eating Disorders

Adolescence can be a difficult time for young people. It is a period of intense change both physically and emotionally, partnered with stress, confusion and anxiety. Young people are extremely vulnerable during this time and can be susceptible to experiencing mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, substance use problems and eating disorders.

Have you ever eaten greasy fast food and regretted it after?

Have you ever felt like you’ve over eaten and felt sick after?

Have you ever gone over the day in your mind and thought about everything you’ve eaten?

These are normal thoughts that all of us experience. But imagine thinking it over and over, all day long, obsessing over every calorie, and feeling constant guilt and regret. This is what someone with an eating disorder may experience, each and every day, sometimes for many years.

Young people are particularly at risk of experiencing an eating disorder. Unfortunately, social media plays a huge part in this. When we were teenagers, the most exposure we had to celebrities and models was in a teen magazine that we bought from the newsagent, or on the occasional movie or television show. But these days, young people are exposed to images every day, literally at the tips of their fingers. Instagram, Facebook and the internet show constant photos and videos of people you know or don’t know, which unfortunately causes feelings of insecurity and inadequateness in young people in terms of how they think they should look.

What is an eating disorder?

“An eating disorder is a serious mental illness, characterised by eating, exercise and body weight or shape becoming an unhealthy preoccupation of someone’s life. It’s estimated that one million Australians have an eating disorder, and this number is increasing. Eating disorders are not a lifestyle choice, a diet gone wrong or a cry for attention. Eating disorders can take many different forms and interfere with a person’s day to day life.”

There are many different types of eating disorders and these have been categorised in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), edition 5, which was published in 2013. The most common types are:

  • Anorexia Nervosa; significant weight loss due to the persistent restriction of food/energy intake, intense fear of gaining weight and disturbance in self-perceived weight or shape. People with anorexia often refuse to maintain weight at or above a normal weight for their height/body shape/age/activity level.
  • Bulimia Nervosa; characterised by a distorted body image and an obsessive desire to lose weight, in which bouts of extreme overeating are followed by fasting, self-induced vomiting, purging, excessive exercise or use of laxatives/diet pills.
  • Binge Eating Disorder; regular episodes of binge eating accompanied by feelings of loss of control, and in many cases; guilt, embarrassment and disgust. Unlike those with bulimia nervosa, a person with binge eating disorder will not use compensatory behaviours, such as self-induced vomiting or over-exercising after binge eating. Many people with binge eating disorder are overweight or obese.
  • Others include: Pica, Rumination Disorder, Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID), Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorder (OSFED) and Unspecified Feeding or Eating Disorder (UFED).

You can read more about each of the different eating disorders here.

Why are young people more at risk of experiencing an eating disorder?

Whilst eating disorders can affect people of all ages, socio-economic groups and genders, adolescence is the most common stage of onset of anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and disordered eating. Although eating disorders can be caused due to a number of factors (personal, environmental, psychological, biological and social), it appears that youth are the most at-risk group of developing an eating disorder, and this can be due to many factors.

As mentioned at the start of this blog post, adolescence can be a tough time for young people. So many changes, both physically and socially, in addition to hormone and brain changes that in turn can affect a young person both emotionally and psychologically. The physical changes within adolescence can cause a young person to feel self-conscious, experience low self-esteem and compare themselves to peers (as well as others that they see through social media). In addition to starting high school, making new friends and trying to “fit in”, young people may also start to feel attraction to others of the opposite or same sex. All of these changes, in addition to their body literally changing shape, as well as other physical changes, place young people at higher risk of developing an eating disorder. Furthermore, eating disorders can be a coping mechanism of young people to try and control something in their life, as they may feel helpless in other aspects of their lives where there has been dramatic change. Who do you work with that has experienced dramatic change recently or even consistently? It’s commonplace with the young people we work with.

Click here for further statistical information about eating disorders.

Are there other risk factors for eating disorders?

There is no single cause of an eating disorder, but other risk factors for eating disorders include low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, depression or anxiety, pressure from family for perfectionism or high achievement, difficulty expressing emotions, ineffective coping strategies, impulsive or obsessive behaviours, conflict in the home or another life crisis, peer pressure, media representations, critical comments about one’s appearance, bullying, physical or sexual abuse, predisposition to an imbalance in serotonin, dieting, history of family obesity and so on.

What are the physical signs of an eating disorder?

The physical signs of an eating disorder might include fluctuation in weight or significant weight loss, loss of menstrual periods (women), fatigue, dizziness, changes in skin/hair/nails, sensitivity to the cold, swelling around the cheeks or jaw, damage to teeth, bowel problems (e.g. constipation) and dehydration.

What are the psychological signs of an eating disorder?

The psychological signs of an eating disorder can include preoccupation with body weight and/or appearance, increased mood changes, irritability, reduced concentration, memory loss, anxiety around meal times, sensitivity to criticism, negative and distorted body image, guilt, self-loathing, obsessive behaviours, rigid thinking (e.g. labelling foods as “good” or “bad”), difficulty with relationships, suicidal thoughts or behaviour and drug and alcohol misuse.

What are the behavioural signs of an eating disorder?

The behavioural signs of an eating disorder may include dieting or overeating, obsessive rituals (e.g. only eating certain foods on certain days), making frequent excuses not to eat, not eating around others, hoarding food, trips to the bathroom after meals and so on.

Can you think of a young person you’ve worked with that displayed psychological, physical or behavioural signs of an eating disorder? What symptoms did they display, and were you able to intervene/assist them?

Importance of early intervention.

It is extremely important that early intervention is achieved in adolescents where an eating disorder is present. This is because during adolescence, not only does a young person’s physical body change, grow and develop, but so does their brain. If this growth and development is interrupted and left untreated, it can cause severe physical damage (chronic illness), further mental health issues and even death.

It’s important to promote eating disorder and body image dissatisfaction prevention programs in schools and within local communities. For instance:

  • Encouraging physical activity in a healthy way, team sports, as well as how to cook nutritious meals are important elements that can be introduced to schools and support services where group work is provided.
  • Anti-bullying programs can be effective in targeting behaviours that can cause eating disorders to develop amongst adolescents in school.
  • Gender equity programs that challenge stereotypes of how young people think they should “look”, as well as dissecting social media and brand representations of men and women.

Eating Disorders

How do we treat eating disorders?

A multi-disciplinary approach to treatment of eating disorders is ideal as there are both physical and psychological aspects that need to be addressed to target the underlying causes and promote long term recovery. There are many different treatment options and settings for eating disorders and these can depend on the type of eating disorder as well as the perceived severity of the problem. Some treatment options include:

  • Physical health management / hospitalisation
  • Mental health management
  • Nutritional counselling and advice
  • Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Family based therapy
  • Anti-depressants
  • Support groups and so on.

For more information on treatment options, visit Eating Disorders Victoria.

Further resources:

https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/sites/default/files/public/EatingDisorderResourceSchools.pdf

https://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/assets/Uploads/A5-Ed-brox-online.pdf

https://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/our-services/education/

https://thebutterflyfoundation.org.au/about-us/information-and-resources/

https://www.eatingdisorders.org.au/eating-disorders/what-is-an-eating-disorder/classifying-eating-disorders/dsm-5

Employment

Youth workers need employment

Youth work employment

Recently, a member of the Ultimate Youth Worker community and I had a great time of discussion after a misunderstanding. We spoke of how many in the community will be feeling the sting of the free market economy and austerity measures. That many youth workers are finding themselves out of work in the current political climate. We spoke of the need for youth workers to have gainful employment and it got me thinking about a few things.

Employment in Australia:

The average wage of a youth worker in Australia is $33k- $63k which is below the average wage in Australia of $60,892. We all know that social services work doesn’t pay a lot, but unless you are at the top end of the pay scale you are earning significantly less than the average employed Australian. Oh, and thats based on full-time employment.

Around 49,600 people are currently employed as Youth Workers in Australia. This includes those with many different job titles. This is set to increase to 62,800 people by 2019, according to the Department of Employment. So, youth work is a growing industry.

Youth work, much like the rest of the social sector, is very female dominated with 25.6% of Youth Workers being male and 74.3% female.

A large proportion of Australian Youth Workers have a Bachelor Degree qualification (32.6%) although this does not necessarily mean a degree in youth work. 56.9% have a diploma or less, and around 10.4% have post-graduate qualifications. What this tells us is that if you have postgraduate qualifications you are the top 10% of youth workers in Australia.

Professional youth work in Australia

There are a lot of youth workers in the sector who are part-time employees. However, in our experience the ones who are full-time employees are often those we would categorise as professional youth workers. These youth workers have a three year degree in youth work and are eligible for membership of a youth workers association. They have at least five years experience in the sector and have a solid network built up. These youth worker’s are rarely out of work unless they face adverse circumstances such as an organisation shutting down. When they are seeking employment they are usually on top of the recruiting pile.

Youth work is a profession which has begun to establish its place in the social services sector and youth workers have established themselves in core services (child protection, youth justice, local government). With all of this happening over the last couple of decades it is easy for youth workers to still feel like the new kid on the block. Youth work employment in Australia is strong, we shouldn’t believe otherwise.

The key take away for you reading this is get qualified. Minimum of a degree, but aim higher. Get experience, at least five years, even if it is part-time work. Five years appears to be the tipping point for people leaving the sector. Above all, build a wide network. If you only have experience in one small sliver of the youth sector you are always in danger of losing your job. If you have experience, understanding and networks across the sector you will never be at the mercy of austerity.


*The information provided on this page is from the Department of Employment’s Job Outlook website. All salary ranges are from Payscale. Where jobs are not exact matches, job areas have been used. This information is to be used as a guide only.