Illawarra mental health group praised by world renowned expert

ABC News by Justin Huntsdale 14/08/13

An Illawarra-based youth mental health service has been recognised for creating a positive change in mental health perception in the Illawarra by leading mental health researcher and Australian of the Year, Professor Patrick McGorry.

Mind Blank Inc is a not-for-profit organisation that has been touring schools over 2012/2013 with an innovative program called SCUBA that helps put mental health issues into a live theatre performance.

Audience members then contribute their ideas and suggestions to the actors on stage, encouraging students to think about the effects of mental illness and appropriate ways of dealing with it.

The group will launch the next step in their journey when they hold a cocktail event on Saturday 17th August at the Fraternity Club in Fairy Meadow called 'Mind Blank 101'.

"It's time to announce to the public some of the results of the research that we have been collecting while on tour," Mind Blank managing director Ally Kelly said.

"It's an exciting time for Mind Blank Inc - our ability to impact the Illawarra area has opened doors for us, leading to nationwide interest.

"The Illawarra and Shoalhaven districts will continue to benefit from our work as all new project models will be created and launched locally."

The cocktail evening will also feature a behind-the-scenes demonstration of one of Mind Blank Inc's new theatre scripts, as well as a number of guest speakers including Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery, NSW Federal Police representative Phillip O'Neill and Wesley Mission's Janine Schramm.

The SCUBA program has had a profound impact on school students in the Illawarra.

"In my 13 years as a PDH/PE teacher, I have never seen mental health be brought to the forefront with such enjoyment, fun and interaction," Lake Illawarra High School teacher Sharna Dawson said.

"Their ability to engage students into this taboo topic is brilliant - I can't recommend this enough."

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