Cowra students took part in the headspace Orange Youth Forum at Cowra High School on Wednesday.
The Youth Forum, made possible through a Foundation for Rural & Regional Renewal (FRRR) ABC Heywire Youth Innovation grant, and local donations, was a one-of-a kind event for the Central West region and featured key speakers Nic Newling, Chris Houston, Dean Withers, and Dakoda and Claire Ward - who all shone a light on mental health and the importance of speaking up when you need support.
Alison Logan, Centre Manager at headspace Orange, says this is the first time the Youth Forum was presented to schools outside of Orange - a huge achievement for the centre.
"This is the third time we've held the Forum, and it continues to get bigger and better. All young people in Years 9 and 10 from Cowra High, Parkes High and James Sheahan High, have been able to participate in the Forum and learn how to seek support, how we can break down the stigma, and how their school can be a safe place for discussing mental health concerns," Ms Logan said.
The Australian Government reports that one in four young Australians currently experience a mental health condition, with half of all mental health concerns developing before the age of 14 and three quarters by the age of 24.
"The Youth Forum is providing a regional platform for mental health issues, and we're able to reach more young people through greater school engagement.
"The conversation won't stop once the Forum ends, we will be working with the teachers to transfer these learnings into practical knowledge," Ms Logan said.
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Staff will also be working closely with the students to plan and coordinate a mental health initiative in each school, ensuring the students are the leaders of the project.
"Through this engagement we're giving the power to the students."