What are 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.

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

Jessy Hall

Jessy is the Community Engagement Coordinator at Ultimate Youth Worker. Jessy has been working as a youth worker since 2014 in a variety of different roles. His passion for youth work began whilst volunteering on a YMCA program for young indigenous leaders, after being inspired by the strength and passion of the young people on this program he immediately began his studies at Chisholm Institute of TAFE where he completed a Diploma of Youth Work. Since then, Jessy has expanded his knowledge and skills in the field by working in residential care facilities, being part of an Australian first evidence based foster care program (TFCO) and partaking in various trainings in youth mental health and other relevant areas to his work. Jessy currently lives in Melbourne but is about to embark on the journey of a lifetime and drive around Australia in a four wheel drive with his partner. He plans to work along the way and explore the different opportunities available for youth workers in Australia. Jessy has dreams to one day start his own organisation dedicated to developing the next generation of socially engaged and passionate young people.

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Mental State Exam

Podcast 019: Mental State Exams

Mental State Exams
To support the podcast, donate here!

Mental State Exams

In todays episode of the Ultimate Youth Worker Podcast Aaron and Jessy look at the Mental State Exam and how it can help youth workers in recognising mental health issues in their young people and how it can aid in making referrals. The Mental State Exam is a comprehensive tool that brings together the subjective views of your young person and your objective views to help recognise the symptoms of mental health issues.

One of the best tools for recognising mental health issues and referring young people to clinical mental health services we have come across over the years is a Mental State Exam. It is simple to use, it covers all the bases and it gives your gut feeling a set of clear indicators to work through. It makes referring easier as it gives you language to use that clinical services understand. It also gives you some objective information to have a good conversation with your young person.

In this Podcast Aaron will show you how to complete a Mental State Exam, what to look out for and when to refer on to the proper treatment. The Mental State Exam is a tool, and like any tool it takes practice to master. When we have a good understanding then we can put it in the toolbox and use it when the need arises.

Resources

Download our MSE Cheat Sheet

Read our blog posts on each of the eight areas of the MSE

  1. Appearance
  2. Behaviour
  3. Speech and Language
  4. Mood and Affect
  5. Thought process and content
  6. Perception
  7. Cognition
  8. Insight and judgement

Thanks for Listening!

To support the podcast, donate here!

To share your thoughts:

To help out the show:

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

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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Mental Health Resources

Youth Mental Health Resources

Mental Health Resources

There are so many youth mental health resources…

Where do you start when you need youth mental health resources?

We get asked all the time where the best resources are. Well finally we have created a resource just for youth workers. All the resources here have been check and tested by our team. These youth mental health resources are recommended by leading practitioners and organisations who work with young people from all over the world. We will continue to update this post so come back again and again to get more resources. All the links to the books take you directly to amazon so you can pick up a copy for yourself.


General resources

Carr-Gregg, M. (2010) When to Worry & What to Do about It. Camberwell, VIC, Australia. Penguin Books

Carr-Gregg, M. (2005) Surviving Adolescents: A Must Have Manual For All Parents. Camberwell, VIC, Australia. Penguin Books

Websites

www.beyondblue.org.au

www.headspace.org.au

www.youthinmind.info

www.reachout.com.au

www.parentingstrategies.net

www.nimh.nih.gov


Depression ResourcesDepression resources

Parker, G and Eyers, K (2009) Navigating Teenage Depression: A Guide for Parents and Professionals. Crows Nest, NSW, Australia. Allen and Unwin

Johnstone, M and Johnstone, A (2008) Living with a Black Dog: His Name Is Depression. Sydney, NSW, Australia. Pan Macmillan Australia

Purcell, R; Ryan, S; Scanlan, F; Morgan, A; Callahan, P, Allen, N and Jorm, A (2013) What works for depression in young people 2nd Ed. Melbourne, VIC, Australia. Beyondblue

Johnstone, M (2005) I Had a Black Dog.Sydney, NSW, Australia. Pan Macmillan Australia

Evans, DL and Andrews, LW (2005) If Your Adolescent Has Depression or Bipolar Disorder: An Essential Resource for Parents (Adolescent Mental Health Initiative). New York, NY, USA. Oxford University Press

Websites

www.youthbeyondblue.com


Anxiety ResourcesAnxiety resources

Foa, EB and Andrews, LW (2006) If Your Adolescent Has an Anxiety Disorder: An Essential Resource for Parents (Adolescent Mental Health Initiative). New York, NY, USA. Oxford University Press

Schlab, LM (2004) The Anxiety Workbook for Teens: Activities to Help You Deal with Anxiety and Worry. Oakland, CA, USA. New Harbinger Publications

Phillips, N (2005) The panic book. Concord West, NSW, Australia. Shrink-Rap Press

Wever, C and Phillips, N (2006) The secret problem. Concord West, NSW, Australia. Shrink-Rap Press

Websites

moodgym.anu.edu.au

www.whatworks4u.org

www.brave-online.com


Eating Disorder ResourcesEating Disorders resources

Walsh, BT and Cameron, VL (2005) If Your Adolescent Has an Eating Disorder: An Essential Resource for Parents (Adolescent Mental Health Initiative). New York, NY, USA. Oxford University Press

Costin, C; Schubert and Grabb, G (2011) 8 Keys to Recovery from an Eating Disorder: Effective Strategies from Therapeutic Practice and Personal Experience (8 Keys to Mental Health). New York, NY, USA. WW Norton and Company

Schmidt, U; Treasure, J and  Alexander, J (2015) Getting Better Bite by Bite: A Survival Kit for Sufferers of Bulimia Nervosa and Binge Eating Disorders. Abingdon, UK. Taylor and Francis.

Cooper, PJ (2006) Overcoming Bulimia Nervosa and Binge-Eating by Prof Peter Cooper (29-Oct-2009) Paperback. London, UK. Robinson Publishing.

Websites

www.thebutterflyfoundation.org.au

www.eatingdisorders.org.au

www.howfaristoofar.org.au

www.feedyourinstinct.com.au

www.b-eat.co.uk


Psychosis Resources

Psychosis resources

Crompton, MT and Broussard, B (2009) The First Episode of Psychosis: A Guide for Patients and Their Families. London, England. Oxford University Press

Gur, RE and Johnson, AB (2006) If Your Adolescent Has Schizophrenia: An Essential Resource for Parents (Adolescent Mental Health Initiative). New York, NY, USA. Oxford University Press

Eyers, K and Parker, G Eds. (2008) Mastering Bipolar Disorder: An Insider’s Guide to Managing Mood Swings and Finding Balance. Sydney, NSW, Australia. Allen and Unwin


Drug and Alcohol ResourcesDrug and Alcohol resources

Dillon, P (2009) Teenagers, Alcohol and Drugs: What Your Kids Really Want and Need to Know about Alcohol and Drugs. Sydney, NSW, Australia. Allen and Unwin

Websites

www.checkyourdrinking.net

www.theothertalk.org.au

www.yodda.org.au

www.adf.org.au

www.adin.com.au

www.reduceyouruse.org.au


Suicide Resources

Suicide resources

Websites

Apps

BeyondNow Convenient and confidential, the BeyondNow app puts your safety plan in your pocket so you can access and edit it at any time. You can also email a copy to trusted friends, family or your health professional so they can support you when you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or heading towards a suicidal crisis.

BeyondNow is free to download from the Apple Store or Google Play. If you don’t have a smartphone or would prefer to use your desktop or laptop, BeyondNow is also available to use online.

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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Youth mental health

Youth workers as mental health gatekeepers

We’ve been asked a fair bit over the last month what our stance is on mental health. There seems to be two camps growing up in the youth sector. Those who see us as generalist youth workers who do not need to know about mental health except that we should refer on to more qualified help and those who believe that as one of the biggest issues facing our young people is something we should know about…mental health. One camp is ignoring issues for the sake of the profession, the other is seeking to adapt with the times.

It will come as no surprise to our long term readers that we sit in the later camp. We believe that youth workers provide a first responder service to young people experiencing mental health issues in the same way that paramedics provide physical health services. We often provide gatekeeper services to mental health support through triaging the case and providing support until a mental health professional can take them on. We do this now, and with little or no specific mental health training. We believe that by our inaction in dealing with our young peoples mental health we are, by default, causing harm to them.

We are not advocating that all youth workers become mental health clinicians. We are saying that we need more than a mental health first aid certificate. A two day course is not enough. We need to faithfully support our young people in all their trails and tribulations. We need to come to grips with the fact that our training programs written decades ago have lost their relevance and we need to update our frameworks. It is up to the academics to change the course structures. It is up to the sector to demand this. It is every youth workers responsibility to become better than they are right now. Mental health is only one area we need to become more proficient in.

Youth mental health

Youth worker mental health gatekeepers

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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What are we up to: Youth mental health

We have met with a number of our supporters lately and one question keeps coming up…What are we up to at the moment? We have been at the forefront of discussions in the youth sector for the last three years and to be honest the cuts to the sector have taken their toll on us. This year did not start with the bang we had hoped for.

But like the phoenix we are rising from the ashes! over the last couple of months we have focussed in on what you have been telling us over the last few years. We keep hearing that youth workers all over Australia are feeling out of their depth when supporting their clients with mental health issues. This is often due to a lack of training. The historical focus has has also been against us with psychologists and social workers being the key players in this space.

Over the next few months we will be taking the knowledge we have gained and we will give it back to you! We will be focusing on what we need to know to face the young peoples challenge of the 21st century… youth mental health.

Let us know what we can do to help you and your organisations meet the challenge of youth mental health. We will be running some training by the years end specifically for youth workers… and more than just mental health first aid.

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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Knowing mental health: Eating disorders

The final week of our mental health month brings us to eating disorders. As youth workers we have seen a marked increase in eating disorders over the past ten years with body image being consistently rated by young people in their top few issues. Approximately 15% of Australian women experience an eating disorder during their lifetime however it is not just an issue for females either. Many young males also deal daily with eating disorders. The mortality rate for people with eating disorders is the highest of all psychiatric illnesses, and over twelve times higher than that for people without eating disorders. Approximately one in twenty Australians has an eating disorder with the rate increasing in the Australian population.

There is a high level of co-morbidity of mental illnesses with eating disorders. Eating disorders are most commonly accompanied by depression and anxiety disorders; however, substance abuse and personality disorders are also highly prevalent in people with eating disorders. In fact, research suggests that approximately 60% of people with an eating disorder will also meet diagnosis for one of these other psychological disorders (Beyondblue, 2014).

Knowing mental health

Knowing eating disorders

According to the Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (fifth edition), “eating disorders are characterised by a persistent disturbance of eating or eating-related behaviour that results in the altered consumption or absorption of food and that significantly impairs physical health or psychosocial functioning“. The following diagnoses come under feeding and eating disorders:

  • Pica
  • Rumination disorder
  • Avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa; and
  • Binge eating

Each of these diagnoses, save for Pica, can only be assigned individually to a person in a single clinical episode. Meaning you cannot have a diagnosis of Anorexia nervosa and Bulimia nervosa in the same presentation. This is due to their substantially different clinical course, outcome options, and treatment needs. The diagnostic criteria for these disorders is relatively straight forward however the disorders themselves are quite misunderstood. As youth workers we must have a solid understanding of these disorders so we can break the stigma and provide the most appropriate treatment options and support to our clients.

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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Knowing mental health: Depression

Knowing mental health: Depression

Depression can be kicked

Depression

We continue mental health month at Ultimate youth Worker with the most spoken about of brain disorders, Depression. Depression goes by many different names and it stalks people with the skill of a bloodhound. It chases you down in everyday situations and squashes your ability to reach your goals. The most disturbing quality of all is it slowly stops them of life. When we speak of depression as a disorder of the brain we are speaking of the everyday crippling sense that the world is going to squash us that some of us feel that stop us from living our life to the full.

The common feature of all depressive disorders is the presence of sad, empty, or irritable mood, accompanied by somatic (physical) and cognitive (mental) changes that significantly affect the individuals capacity to function. The black dog and its friends spend most of their time making our mood low which in turn makes us physically and mentally feel like we are walking in mud. Our ability to deal with the day to day stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and make a contribution to our community becomes limited and if it persists can become a chronic condition.

[Tweet “#UltimateMentalHealth Do you understand depressive disorders in young people? #youthwork”]

The major differences among the depressive disorders are issues of duration (how long the symptoms last for), timing (whats happening for you at the time), or presumed aetiology (the causes, or manner of causation of a condition). Symptoms of depressive disorders can last from two weeks to a number of years. The onset of the symptoms can be a certain time of the month through to a significant bereavement and anything in between.

Major Depressive Disorder

…represents the classic condition known to most of us in this group of disorders. It is characterised by discrete episodes of at least two weeks duration (although most episodes last considerably longer) involving clear cut changes in affect, cognition, and neurovegetative functions and inter-episode remissions. While these brain disorders can be diagnosed as one off episodes they are more often recurrent in a majority of cases.

As youth workers we will work with many young people with depressive disorders. We must have a strong understanding of the diagnostic criteria, treatment options and recovery planning for young people living with depression. We can then support them to make informed decisions about the treatment planning and recovery orientation. We owe it to them to be well informed.

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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Knowing mental health: Anxiety disorders

Anxiety is a problem faced by around one in ten young Australians aged 18-25.

For young people aged 13-17, the figure is approximately one in twenty-five. Anxiety is a normal emotion experienced by everyone at some stage. It is an emotional anticipation of future threats. It is often associated with muscle tension and vigilance in preparation for future danger and cautious or avoidant behaviours. Anxiety disorders differ from developmentally normative fear or anxiety by being excessive or persisting. However, Anxiety disorders come when a persons level of anxiety is heightened over an extended period of time beyond developmentally appropriate periods. Anxiety disorders differ from one another in the types of objects or situations that induce fear, anxiety, or avoidance behaviour, and the associated cognitive ideation (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Knowing mental health: Anxiety

What do you know about anxiety?

When our young people gain a diagnosis and tell us that they have anxiety it could be one of a number of disorders which come under this umbrella. According to the DSM5 the following diagnoses come under anxiety disorders:

  • Separation anxiety disorder
  • Selective mutism
  • Specific phobia
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Agoraphobia
  • Generalised anxiety disorder
  • Substance/medication induced anxiety disorder
  • Anxiety disorder due to another medical condition
  • Other specified anxiety disorder
  • Unspecified anxiety disorder

[Tweet “14% of females and 8% of males have experienced an anxiety disorder in the last twelve months”]

We aren’t going to go into detail about all of these here (Phew). What we want to give you is an overview. In time we will go into some detail on these disorders.

Approximately twice as many young women are diagnosed with anxiety disorders as males. 14% of females and 8% of males have experienced an anxiety disorder in the last twelve months this is equivalent to around 435,000 young people in Australia every year.  This mean we are extremely likely to have clients with an anxiety disorder during our career. Anxiety is the number one mental health issue we will find ourselves working with.

Anxiety disorders often have comorbid disorders alongside them so it is important for us to understand the extent of the issues surrounding an anxiety diagnosis. Get to know the diagnostic criteria for these disorders. Know as much as you can about them. Your young people will thank you for it.

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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Anxiety

Knowing mental health: Anxiety

Anxiety

Don’t empty today of its strength

We kick off mental health week with the most prevalent of disorders, Anxiety. Anxiety robs people of their ability to cope with the turmoil of everyday situations. It robs them of the ability to reach their potential. Most of all it robs them of life. When we speak of anxiety as a brain disorder we are not speaking of the everyday anxieties we feel when we have to do something like driving in heavy traffic or speaking in front of a group. We are speaking of the crippling anxieties that some of us feel that stop us from living life to the full.

When our thinking becomes so disordered by anxiety we cannot do even the most basic tasks. We cannot get out of bed, leave the house or even hold a conversation. Our ability to think clearly and rationally is basically gone. Your limbic system takes control and your primal fight or flight instincts kick in. your frontal lobe, the part of the brain that orders rational thought, has been overridden. All the fears and failures you can imagine are now in control of your thought and actions. You are now in a state of complete primal anxiety.

Add to all of this the fact that adolescence is already a time of storm and stress and we have a setting that is ready to ignite.  Our young people are already experiencing changes in their brains which they are struggling to deal with and on top of that anxiety is nipping at their heals. Any strength that they had to face the daily challenges of being an adolescent is torn away to deal with their anxieties. Grades, relationships, groups, fears, all of these and more conspire against our young people. They set them up for worry and dread.

As youth workers we often provide a first point of contact for young people to address their anxieties. By developing a trusting relationship where young people can confide in us their fears we can support them to begin a journey of recovery. Understanding the triggers, diagnosis and treatment options available to our young people assists us to guide them through the maze of service provision to find the right support options for them. It gives them back the strength they need to beat their anxiety.

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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youth workers need to stop mental health stigma

In my class on mental health I often ask if we are beating back the stigma of mental illness. Students often say no… but after some thought and discussion they often change their mind. “We are beating back the stigma of anxiety, depression and body image” they would say. It is then that I ask them, “What would you do if you were running a youth program and one of the participants had a psychotic break?” Most of the students with fear in their eyes speak about keeping all the other participants safe while seeking help for the one having the break. This leads me to ask what they would do if one of their young people was depressed. No fear here, they would just get alongside the young person. Stigma is still very much at the forefront of challenges for mental health.

I agree with my students, we have made leaps forward. But, we still have a long way to go. While we have made great steps forward in areas such as anxiety and depression; eating disorders, schizophrenia and personality disorders to name a few are still very stigmatised. Much of the stigma still comes from fear. We fear that which we don’t know. When was the last time you saw a schizophrenic portrayed as “normal” in the media. they are always touted as weird, scary or worse. What about people with personality disorders how are they portrayed on film?

As youth workers we believe that young people have enough issues without having to add stigma to the list. However we as much as any member of the general public stigmatise mental illness. We don’t mean to do it, but in our fear we allow our prejudices to come to the fore. Fear comes from our lack of knowledge. As the general public knows very little about mental health so it is with youth workers. Even though our clientele are likely to have mental health issues we do not really study it and unless we spend significant personal resources we will have minimal understanding of brain disorders at best.

Mental health is important

We must have an understanding of brain disorders

To stop the stigma of mental illness we must have a solid understanding of the causes, diagnostic criteria, treatment options and recovery options. We need to be better than we are right now. Unfortunately this means going against the grain. I was speaking to an educator recently who believed that because youth workers don’t diagnose we don’t need to know how a diagnosis is formed. It is this antiquated idea of youth work and how we support young people that causes stigma. The same educator could not see why we need to have more than mental health first aid as it is psychologists who will do the work. I mentioned that it was youth workers who often hold the cases and that most psychologists will only give a dozen sessions.

We need to have a better understanding of mental health. It stops the stigma!

Aaron Garth

Aaron Garth is the Executive Director of Ultimate Youth Worker. Aaron has worked as a youth worker in a number of settings including local church, street drug and alcohol outreach, family services, residential care, local government and youth homelessness since 2003. Aaron is a regular speaker at camps, retreats, & youth work training events and is a dedicated to seeing a more professional youth sector in Australia. Aaron is a graduate of RMIT University and an alumnus of their youth work program. He lives in Melbourne with his wife Jennifer & their daughters Hope, Zoe, Esther, Niamh and son Ezra.

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