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“One of the fundamental challenges in young people’s mental health care is based in the assumption that youth equates with health. ‘So unless the person is really obviously disabled, really obviously injured… there’s an assumption that person’s entirely well.’

I was shocked. I’d never connected these dots. Health and youth are so inherently linked. And a disruption in the link adds a new, complex dimension to the prevention, identification, intervention and treatment of young people with mental health challenges.”

At Connect 2014, a national youth mental health conference organised by Young and Well CRC (where I am currently an intern), I was given the opportunity to interview a man at the forefront of Australia – and the world’s – mental health sector.

Professor Ian Hickie is pretty much a guru. He works in research at the Brain and Mind Institute, and is involved in the development of evidence-based services that can change the way young people and their communities approach mental health care. Professor Hickie attends all the conferences, meetings and interviews he can, to help spread the word on what we can actually do to make progress and help scores of young people nationwide.

In his formal addresses and the time I spent with him one-on-one, Professor Hickie communicated a sense of hope regarding the future of Australia’s young people and their relationship with themselves, their health, their carers, and their world. He offered many insights into the potential for social media, apps and digital technology to become keystones in mental health care, and spoke of the challenges health care professionals are facing in relation to these changes.

Young people are healthy, aren’t they? We’re nimble, we’re free, we’re thrill-seeking, happy. If we fall down, we get back up. Resilient creatures, we are. Or so the story goes. So when something challenges that status-quo, sometimes we and those around us don’t know how to react.

I learned so much at Connect 2014, and would do the experience a disservice to try and reproduce even some of it here. But my interview with Professor Hickie, published on Young and Well CRC’s website, will give you a glimpse of what I was a part of, where we’re at with young people’s mental health care, and where to go from here.

If you want to follow (or relive) Connect 2014 in its entirety, you can also view the Storify summaries.

“We have so many opportunities to transform health care to a model where the individual is at the centre, and the clinician is a consultant – is complementary – but not in control.

Together we can develop a system of care that will respond, educate and serve all young people in meaningful and respectful ways. And that will really change our mental health.”

Not long ago I posted a response to Christopher Bantick’s opinion piece about the supposed decline of high culture and elite art in Australia.

According to Bantick, ‘Young people have lost the capacity to actually know when something is art, and worthy’. Without reiterating my entire spiel, as we would say in high school debates ‘I strongly disagree with this statement’.

Let’s continue with this semi-hilarious debate structure, shall we?

I will now present you with evidence in rebuttal to Bantick’s arguments and convince you – without a doubt – that young people have indeed not lost the capacity to “actually know when something is art, and worthy” of our appreciation and attention.

Exhibits A and B: Happy by Pharrell Williams and Happy by Gillian Cosgriff (background vocals/guitar by Sage Douglas, Josie Lane and Robert Tripolino).

William’s Official Music Video is a modern artistic masterpiece in itself. Originally for the soundtrack of Pixar’s Despicable Me 2, Happy is an all-singing-all-dancing four minutes and seven seconds of fun. As an extension of those few minutes, Williams also produced the world’s first 24 hour music video, which you can all watch at 24 Hours of Happy [dot com].

The video consists of the four-minute song repeated with various people dancing and miming along. Williams himself appears 24 times on the hour, and there are a number of celebrity cameos including Odd Future (1:48pm), Steve Carell (5:08pm), Jamie Foxx (5:28pm),Ana Ortiz (5:32pm), Miranda Cosgrove (5:40pm), JoJo (6:16pm), Kelly Osbourne (1:28am), Magic Johnson (5:36am), Sérgio Mendes (10:32am) andJimmy Kimmel (11:48am). The minions from Despicable Me 2 make several appearances throughout the film, including one scene at 3:00am, in which Pharrell and the minions dance in a movie theatre that is playing the scene from Despicable Me 2 in which “Happy” appears. The site allows users to navigate to various points in the 24-hour timeframe, including all 360 four-minute segments and each hourly segment with Pharrell. –  Wikipedia (it’s more reliable than you think)

So, all in all, I think that’s a pretty innovative, multidisciplinary, and inviting work of art, don’t you?

And, you know what? It seems not a whole lot of people agree that such art is ‘crass’, Mr Bantick, because Happy has topped the charts in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, New Zealand, Portugal, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Netherlands and has come close in Hungary and Denmark, too.

Regardless of what the opposition thinks of Pharrell William’s current worldwide hit, Happy, which Williams no less than wrote, performed and produced, Cosgriff’s interpretation is so much more than just a cover you’d see on the first round auditions of The Voice.

Cosgriff is a graduate of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), one of the nation’s leading music institutions. Having received some of the best formal training in the industry, Cosgriff is making numerous contributions to the Australian music scene. She won Best Cabaret at Melbourne Fringe 2013 and is currently on a mission to play on pianos all over Melbourne, an artwork in itself called ‘Play Me, I’m Yours‘ by artist Luke Jerram.

Play Me, I’m Yours, in Melbourne until 27 January, is presented by Arts Centre Melbourne as part of the Betty Amsdem Participation Program. They’ve been painted and decorated by local community artists and can be found all across Melbourne’s arts precinct and its surroundings. Anyone can sit down to a piano and play to their heart’s content.

Now, take note, Bantick and fellow high-culture-appreciators. This is an artwork, presented by Victoria’s premiere arts institution. The very same Centre is home to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra and Opera Australia, amongst other more traditional arts ensembles. Furthermore, Betty Amsden OAM is one of Australia’s most generous philanthropists who is directing her funds specifically towards children and young people and their engagement in the arts.

Anyway, Cosgriff’s taken on her own little arts project, playing and performing on the pianos for anyone who happens to be fortunate enough to be in the vicinity at the time. Her performance of Happy is cheeky, fresh and thoroughly entertaining. She’s also teemed up with other performers, and the locals at Real Good Kid productions to film and upload the performances to share with everyone with internet access.

I’m not negating more traditional forms of art. I’m not saying all popular music is fantastic or that the price of tickets to some international acts’ concerts aren’t ridiculous. But, the cost is across the board. The fantastic Berlin Philharmonic (whom I’ve seen) or Beyonce (who, despite all my best intentions, I have not), they’re both raking in the cash because to put on such a show costs a whole lot of dosh. And, seriously, Beyonce is practically a God who never stops giving, so it’s only fair we give a little back.

So, yes, today’s youth are growing up with a different ‘cultural background’ than you and others who’ve come before us, Bantick. Our thinking is changing but it’s because now the world is growing stronger and becoming more connected by empowering people through the arts. And, elitism has no place in a world like that.

 

Kids are so often questioned by endearing adults about what they want to be when they grow up. I’d say it’s one of the three most common questions grandparents ask their grandchildren, teachers ask their students, and family-friends ask their younger acquaintances.

There are your stereotypical answers: firefighter, sports star, pop singer. I know I had dreams of becoming a famous entertainer; traveling the world with my entourage, performing to thousands of screaming fans at the world’s biggest arenas. I knew every word to Sk8r Boi, Born To Try, and Bring It All Back. With friends and cousins, I created shows and made tired adults sit through our endless cycles of songs and dances, accompanied by summersaults, and a hairbrush held upright, just below my chin – for authenticity, of course (see below).

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I’m an avid TED fan, and spend my spare moments listening and watching TEDTalks from all over the world. TEDTalks give me insight into the possibilities and opportunities available to me, knowledge about the brain, our emotions, global institutions, personal triumphs, life challenges and revolutions of all sizes and nature, and the chance to gain an understanding and new perspectives about issues so central to our world, past, present and future.

I’ve listened and watched American model Cameron Russell’s TEDTalk time, and time again, (and if you enjoyed my post Like This, I suggest you watch it, too). I love Andrew Solomon’s soliloquy on depression, and Brené Brown on The power of vulnerability.

As the slogan says, the speakers at TED really do have ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’.

Today, I came across a recent TEDxTalk by Logan LaPlante. LaPlante shares his thoughts on this reoccurring concept of asking children what they want to be when they ‘grow up’.

LaPlante explains his philosophy that maybe what we should focus on is making a life, rather than making a living, and suggests that being happy, healthy and engaging in creative practice will help us achieve our life goals in more meaningful and rewarding ways.

Maybe you’ve come across similar ideas somewhere, someplace, sometime. Maybe you think there’s nothing so exceptional about an individual such as LaPlante having developed this point of view.

Except, Logan LaPlante is 13 years old. In Lake Tahoe, California, he lives with his parents and his younger brother, Cody. And, another thing that makes LaPlante’s philosophy so poignant is how he found these principles by which he lives. 

Logan LaPlante

Logan LaPlante

Ask LaPlante what he wants to be when he grows up? Happy. He believes innovation, exploration and experimentation are key aspects of developing a life worth living, and actively pursues his interests through his education.

LaPlante was taken out of the traditional school system at age nine. Now, he is homeschooled, and has coined the method through which he learns, as Hackschooling.

He explains, ‘hackers are people who challenge and change… systems, to make them work differently, to make them work better.’ He says hacking and hackschooling involve adopting an open ‘mindset’ where you’re not afraid to try new things, to get messy.

LaPlante stands by Sir Ken Robinson’s argument that creativity should be just as valued as literacy, and suggests hackschooling as a ‘remix’ or a ‘mash up’ of traditional education, one that  encourages students to develop their passions, take on opportunities, and think outside the square.

He now loves writing, because he was given the opportunity to write about subjects that actually interest him. His favourite ‘class’ is an internship he has one day a week with Big Truck Brand, a global lifestyle and accessories company. He is motivated, stimulated and aware.

LaPlante talks about Dr Roger Walsh’s idea of Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLCs), and has made these principles of learning how to be happy and healthy an integral part his hackschooling philosophy.

hackschooling

And, as LaPlante says, because it’s a mindset, not a system, ‘the cool part [is] hackschooling can be used by anyone, even traditional schools’.

At its heart, hackschooling is about encouraging kids to follow their passions. It’s about involving young people in the community, drawing on local resources, making learning fun, and trusting that given these opportunities, young people will find their way to make a living as a byproduct of their journey towards creating a meaningful life.

Learning should be hands on, involved, inspiring. We should focus on developing skills and fostering relationships, rather than memorising charts and tables and facts.

Logan LaPlante recognises we’re living in a world in great need of more young people with this hacker mindset, and the benefits it offers individuals, their communities, and the world at large.

If only our Education Minister and (sadly appointed) senior teaching staff such as Christopher Bantick were open to adopting the hacker mindset. I’m sure the world would have a much brighter future.

So for something a bit different, here’s a kind of latest news/opinion piece I wrote for artsHub yesterday. It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek but the foundation of my arguments still stand. So, have a read and give ya mum a book this christmas – and while you’re at it, buy your brother/sister/cousin/friend one, too.

An abbreviated version is available at the artsHub website.

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With the rise of the hipster, young adults are creating a digital divide when it comes to reading – and its not what you think.

Young adult readers want a tangible bang for their buck when it comes to buying books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image: Books abound at The Central Library of Stuttgart
A new study has found 16 to 24 year olds prefer buying printed books to eBooks.
Recent research by British marketing group Voxburner found that 62 per cent of this demographic surveyed would rather buy a physical book than purchase a copy of the same book for a digital reading device.
As referenced in Voxburner’s Buying Digital Content Report, which sourced and surveyed 1,420 respondents in the UK between 24 September and 18 October this year, 17 per cent of respondents felt eBooks need to be 75 per cent cheaper than current market prices.
Only eight per cent of young people found eBooks to be reasonably priced and over a quarter thought the price of eBooks should be halved.
As a young woman who could comfortably locate myself within this demographic if we presume such findings are transferable across the equator, I find myself siding with the majority.
Nothing beats the smell, the weight and the wonder a physical book presents. I nurture the opportunity to flip through a book’s pages, making my own creases in the spine and being able hold it close to my heart. While I personally am not a fan of dog-earing page corners, it too, is a physical sensation unavailable to those who choose the digital path.
Voxburner found the top-rated reasons for preferring physical to digital books were ‘I like to hold the product’ (51 per cent), ‘I am not restricted to a particular device’ (20 per cent), ‘I can easily share it’ (10 per cent), ‘I like the packaging’ (9 per cent), and ‘I can sell it when used’ (6 per cent). These physical and emotional experiences are simply unavailable when it comes to eBooks.
Readers may benefit from being able to enlarge the font size of their eBooks, but with so many hipsters wearing glasses these days, that’s hardly a concern for today’s young adults.
I gain so much satisfaction from slowly lifting up the bottom corner of the right-side page whilst reading intently and swiftly through an all-enveloping story, before the climax of reaching that last visible word and slamming the page down on its head to continue without breaking rhythm.
Then there are the smells of a freshly printed page, or the history of the second-hand book purchased from a little bookstore in a country town after accidently forgetting how amazing reading can be, relishing in some free time and subsequently finishing a book faster than expected, on a weekend away.
Bookshelves are a unique window into a person’s interests, past and knowledge. If I were to store my books virtually, I’d be without the ready reminder of who I’ve become through reading, each time I pass the shelves.
In an interview with The Guardian, Voxburner spokesman, Luke Mitchell extended this sentiment, reiterating that ‘books are like status symbols, you can’t really see what someone has read on their Kindle’.
Additionally, eBooks lack character. As Gerard Ward of Voxburner notes, most eBooks use standard fonts and contain fewer images due to the lack of colour available on many devices.
I admit, I don’t own an eReader of any sort. But, I also have very little interest in doing so.
Where is the pleasure of cuddling up in front of the open fire on a wintery night but having to worry about the heat adversely affecting the electrical components of my ‘book’? I want to be able to sit as close to the heat as I want, and observe the shadows of the flames illuminate and shade different parts of my page as they flicker.
Yes, I am highly dependent on my smartphone and many other technological devices. However, as Mitchell suggested to publishers in an interview with British trade journal, The Bookseller, it might pay to reconsider their pricing hierarchy.
‘The report suggests that publishers should look at how young people download content, because although about 85 per cent have a smartphone, only 55 per cent have some kind of eReader’, Mitchell said.
So, eBooks may be convenient and available at the drop of a hat (or the tap of a screen), but isn’t the kill of the chase a significant element of the reading experience? Browsing, scouting and landing the coveted paperback only heighten my desire to jump in once the pages fill my hands.
But ultimately, what is important to me is that we just keep young people reading. So this holiday season, don’t pass up the gift of giving your loved one a whole other world they can explore in the palm of their hands, whatever your preference; print or digital.

I have been stuck at the age of 16 for four years and despite the passing of the days, I’ve not become any older. Remaining four years my junior has deprived me of life opportunities and experiences typical of teenage and young adult life. It has prevented me from living like my friends do; drinking, going out, meeting boys and having fun with my friends. It has challenged my ability to enjoy being with other people including family and friends. If I gave up my eating disorder, I would be able to socialize more. I would be more open and able to take up opportunities and possibilities that may come my way in terms of socializing, academic pursuits and other activities.

I have been living an isolated, lonely life, far from others and their experiences. I have been completely disengaged and disturbed by my own thoughts and subsequent actions. I have felt guilty upon eating anything outside my minutely planned meals and struggle even with going out for breakfast. I have found it hard to look at the food in front of my without thinking about where it will be found later, located on a certain part of my body. These payoffs are working against me fully and completely. All the payoffs are negative for ESTHER. The only positive payoffs relate to my eating disordered self, where I feel as though I am in control, have control, have tight reigns over my appearance and my lifestyle. In reality, I don’t. It’s Ana. Ana has held her grip on me for years and years now and it is finally time I let go.

Call me crazy, call it what you want. But you have no idea how tough this shit is until you’ve experienced it yourself. And I would never wish this upon anyone.

Tomorrow, I turn 20 years old. And I am home. So I’m going to do it for myself. I can’t deserve this life of shame, heartache and pain. I deserve to be happy. I need to, and everyone should stop worrying about how thin your legs look. It will be hard and extremely challenging but in the end, it will be worth it. Clothes are supposed to FIT. They are not meant to be loose or baggy. They are meant to show off healthy curves and a shapely body. Stick figures are not the ideal. I need to eat to nourish my body. I will eat to nourish my body and my soul.

I will be there to advocate for a better life for all those who suffer. I want to work to help others suffering from mental illness to have a voice, to speak up and to be heard. Reduce stigma and seek out a positive future. I’ve been told that it’s possible. And tonight, I finally believe that it is.

Start of a better life.

Start of a better life.

Last Friday night I had the pleasure of attending the official launch of The Brainwash Project’s first print magazine. The Brainwash Project was created for young women as something “inclusive, empowering, intellectually stimulating and fresh”, by Melbournian, Jess Barlow. The Brainwash Project is somewhat of a healthy antidote to the countless publications that (un-intendedly?) serve to leave so many girls and women feeling inadequate, in comparison with the body, beauty and life ideals they promote.

The launch was such an incredible event. Set in a community hall, people from all walks of life came together to celebrate the magazine’s first print edition. The publication is bright, colourful, informative, entertaining and extremely professional. There were brave young singers, slam-poets and public figures to entertain the crowd, complementary nail polish painting, and other stalls with knick-knacks for your pockets. Professional photographer, Bianca Anderson ran a photo booth were attendees were invited to dress up as ‘Paper People’, a key aspect of the project as a whole. Barlow says that the idea of Paper People illuminates “how unrealistic it is to lust after a different appearance to our own” as well as “how easy it is to change [one’s] appearance using Photoshop or even just old magazines and scissors”.

I love this notion of Paper People, and the more I think about it, the more it resonates with me. So often, we (both women and men, girls and boys) are presented with figures, images and ideals that are literally unattainable. Celebrities are one aspect of this saga, but aside from the photoshopping post-shoot, these people often have wads of excess cash to use on self-enhancement projects, absurd diets, expensive ‘health’ retreats, extravagant foods and surgical procedures that help to maintain the image they so desperately want to preserve.

Consider this article on the phone application, Pixtr. Pixtr offers you the chance to “put your best face forward” through giving you a plastic, fantastic, Barbie-like appearance. As journalist, Chris Taylor notes, this app is sure to be put to use on shameless selfies, embarrassing nightclub photos and any image in which the profiler deems themselves to be in some respect inadequate or imperfect.

Additionally, this recent Dove ad has received widespread coverage, urging women to challenge how they see themselves, and the value they place on their appearance. It has to be said that the ad has received some criticism which is hard to ignore, but the principle and what I assume to be Dove’s overall aim of the campaign, in nonetheless intriguing and it’s pretences are deeply upsetting. So many people judge, value and categorise themselves based on a single feature of their face or their body. People compare themselves to other people, denying themselves the very miracle they are born with – uniqueness. There are literally no two people alike. That’s pretty unbelievable.

Alas, there are many contributing factors to negative self-esteem, and the media is just one of these components. But the Brainwash Project is helping young women take a step in the right direction.

So I encourage you, I urge you, to find out more about the Brainwash Project. This first 188-page, colour filled magazine has also become a platform for young people to showcase their talents, promote worthy, youth-oriented causes, and has contributors from all over the world. The magazine speaks its message: the cover is plain white, until you cast your eye over the back, bottom corner, and that corner reads ‘don’t judge things by appearance’.

I have two pieces featured in the magazine. The first is a feature on Melbourne fashion designer, Eve Walton-Healey. She has recently launched her own label called White tailed Fawn. You can check out her blog here. The second, is an interview with local Melbourne band The Darjeelings. They are incredible and I’d definitely recommend reading the piece to find out more about their musical inspirations, how they manage to balance school, family, friends and music, and what their plans are for the future.

If you’d like to purchase a copy of the Brainwash Magazine, you can enter the shop here. Delivery is available Australia wide, as well as internationally. Barlow is hoping to also make available a digital e-version of the magazine, so be on the lookout for that edition, too. While the price may be higher than your average girls or women’s rag, the it’s because the content and presentation is far from average. And it’s all for a worthy cause. So buy a copy for your daughter, your sister, your granddaughter, niece, or as they say in Parks and Recreation, treat.yo.self to a copy of Brainwash Magazine. Because if we’re going to take anything from the cosmetics industry it should be this: Because you’re worth it.

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*I first wrote about the crowd funding campaign for The Brainwash Project back in September last year. The Brainwash Magazine is the result of hard work, time, volunteering, talent and dedication. Congratulations to all those involved. Support the cause on Facebook, here.