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#ChatStarter helps families build positive mental health in hard times

Worried about your child’s mental health during Sydney’s lockdown? You’re not alone. A new national program, designed in partnership with Australia’s national mental health organisations who specialise in supporting children, young people, parents and carers, has been targeted to help.

Launched in August, #ChatStarter aims to create opportunities for early intervention by tapping into the in-built capacity of parents and young people to utilise their intuition, love and support to create a safe space to share feelings.

Designed by Australia’s National Mental Health Commission in partnership batyr, Beyond Blue, Butterfly Foundation, headspace, Kids Helpline, Orygen and ReachOut, and with the support of parents and young parents, #ChatStarter highlights how critical conversations can be in helping identify when someone is going through a difficult time.

Fifteen-year-old Crystal Coulits from Sydney says her whole life has moved online, now that she is home-schooling because of the lockdown. Although Crystal and her mum Stella are not big walkers, she’s found that walking and talking has become a great way for her to step outside and get some fresh air whilst connecting with her mum.

“For us, walking and talking is a good #ChatStarter, we motivate each other, and I really like that our conversations are more natural like we’re talking as friends. We can have a good laugh and step away from the stresses in our lives.”

National Mental Health Commission CEO, Ms Christine Morgan, said that for many, the newer Covid-19 lockdown restrictions feel harder than those encountered previously, and are having a cumulative impact on children, young people, and their parents.

“We are understandably fatigued after more than 18 months of Covid-19. Many people, some for the first time in their lives, are dealing with mental health challenges. This is particularly true for young people, who we know are experiencing heightened levels of distress and mental health challenges,” Ms Morgan said.

“We are spending more time at home than we usually would and engaging online more often – placing both parents and young people in a unique position to recognise and support someone they care about when they are struggling.”

Ms Morgan said #ChatStarter can help prevent parents and children from reaching crisis point. It does this by encouraging people to connect with those around them aided by free evidence-based resources and tools on the Federal Government’s Head to Health platform.

The resources recognise that having a small chat can make a big difference but that many people may not know how to start a conversation or what to say. Walk and Talk, Yarn and Learn, Drive and Debrief, Bake and Bond, Relate over Reels, Create and Connect, Dance and Download, Stretch and Reflect, Celebrate and Share, and DIY and Compress are some suggested ways to break the ice.

How you can get involved in #ChatStarter

Visit www.headtohealth.gov.au to learn more about #ChatStarter and how to start and continue a chat safely.

Film a short video (30 seconds) or share a post about your experience, and what helps spark a conversation. (You can find #ChatStarter stickers on Giphy by searching @chatstarter)

Share your video or photograph on your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok using the hashtag #ChatStarter

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