2021 WA Australian of the Year Professor Helen Milroy calls for more support for children’s mental health

  • 13 October 2021

Mental health experts including 2021 WA Australian of the Year, Professor Helen Milroy, gathered to discuss children’s mental health, the importance of early intervention and what can be done both at home and on a wider scale to support them.

At the Inspiring Australians Breakfast for Mental Health Week, guests from Government, business and youth organisations heard from Helen as she delved into the complexities of children’s mental health.

Helen spoke of the impact of trauma on brain development from as early as pregnancy, and how adverse childhood experiences can impair cognitive, learning and social development, resulting in a higher risk of low socioeconomic status, chronic disease and suicidal ideation. She stressed the importance of building resilience in childhood to ensure resilience in adulthood, and warned of the lack of services and understanding despite evidence supporting the benefits of early intervention.

After Helen’s passionate speech, Chief Psychiatrist of WA, Dr Nathan Gibson, and Commissioner for Children and Young People WA, Colin Pettit, joined Helen on stage for a Q&A with the morning’s emcee, Tracy Vo. The Auspire Ambassador and 9News Perth presenter asked the panel about how we can support children at home, hurdles that kids are currently facing and, of course, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The trio encouraged guests to open the narrative of mental health with children, not only to support them, but because adults can learn from their natural honesty and openness. While Nathan joked about how children are teaching adults how to use technology, this led to a serious discussion around the impact of social media and how parents can best manage their children’s experience of it – social media is here to stay, so rather than denying it, work with children on a healthy approach.

The subject of barriers and challenges also returned, as Colin stressed it wasn’t just an issue of funding, but that mental health is so complex and unique, it requires an enormous amount of research and resources. This raised the importance of introducing mental health into children’s education.

Helen closed the discussion with a final word encouraging children to connect with nature and the universe – if they do this, they’ll never be alone.

Special guests included 2021 WA Senior Australian of the Year, Dr Richard Walley OAM, who delivered an incredibly passionate Welcome to Country. Auspire Chairman, Bradley Woods; Auspire CEO, Morgen Lewis; and Max Hills, Chief Medical Officer of the Australian of the Year Awards’ National Diversity & Inclusion Partner, Chevron Australia, addressed the audience.

View photos from the Inspiring Australians Breakfast here.

This event was proudly supported by Chevron Australia as the National Diversity & Inclusion Partner of the Australian of the Year Awards, Business Events Perth and St John WA.

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