Former Karratha resident continues mental health advocating for the Pilbara

Alexander ScottPilbara News
Rachael Laing
Camera IconRachael Laing Credit: Alexander Scott/Pilbara News

A former Karratha resident who has passionately advocated for mental health awareness in Karratha is using her role in a national mental health organisation’s youth reference group to ensure the mental health needs of young people in the Pilbara are heard.

Rachael Laing joined 19 other young people from across Australia to be selected for the Headspace National Youth Reference Group.

The group provides feedback on proposed initiatives from the organisation to ensure they make a positive difference in the lives of young people and that resources Headspace has received from the Government and corporate partners are put to the best use.

Ms Laing, who joined the group last year, said she was inspired to apply after seeing the work other members had achieved through sharing their lived experiences on a national level.

“I’ve managed to seek out different opportunities, mostly through volunteering, I’ll share my personal interests to either contribute in the mental health space or advocate or support others,” she said.

“But they’ve all been very small scale and very localised.“

She said COVID-19 had created hurdles for the reference group but these had been overcome through the use of technology.

“I’ve been so amazed at the capacity of technology and how we can utilise different digital technologies to work together across every state and territory in Australia,” she said.

Looking at the hurdles and barriers to positive mental health in the Pilbara, Ms Laing said social isolation was a key factor.

She said when young workers move to the region to start their careers, they lose their social support networks.

“One of the really hard parts about that is there’s a very high turnover of people in jobs, particularly young people in that 18 to 25 age range,” she said.

“So the mental health in forming social connections and feeling like you have belonging and meaning with friends that can be quite hard and people are coming and going quite a lot.

“That can make it really challenging, not only in building really strong mental health, but also having support to deal with mental health challenges as well.”

Ms Laing said there was still a level of shame and stigma around talking about mental ill health and mental challenges in Karratha and the Pilbara.

“What I noticed was there can be this pressure to just feel really grateful to have all of this right on your doorstep,” she said.

“And that that makes it really difficult to speak up when things are pretty challenging. But I think we need to really normalise that.”

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