Neuroplasticity – learning about the brain early in life.

Here’s a little media release – IIOY is up to some exciting brainy stuff – making mini Amygdalas (amygdali) – helping to keep those little almond shaped group of nuclei calm…

image courtesy of Scholastic

–    image courtesy of Scholastic










The brain is amazing – it’s plastic! Neuroplasticity refers to the brains ability to change itself in response to the environment and to learn from experience. The brain is the only organ able to do this. Our emotional state early in life, affects the way our brain develops. All experiences, good and not so good, shape the structure of the brain. The early years of life are a critical time for brain development.

Bunbury-based community group Investing In Our Youth is excited to be bringing MindUP™ to the South West. MindUP™ is an evidence based classroom curriculum that fosters social and emotional awareness, enriches psychological well-being and promotes academic success. Through the MindUP™ curriculum, children learn about their brains and how different parts of their brains function and how this affects their behaviour.

Youth Mental Health Development Officer Louise Fischer, says that by learning about how the brain operates we learn how this affects our emotions and therefore our behaviour.

“MindUP™ gives children a deeper understanding of how the brain processes information,” Ms Fischer said. “Parents and teachers learn about their brains too.”

MindUP™ is a great way in which children, aged from pre-primary through to around 14 years, can learn to regulate their emotions and research shows this knowledge will be sustained into adulthood.

“Children at very young ages can suffer from stress and anxiety. MindUP™ offers children a way to learn about their emotions and how to tame them,” Ms Fischer said.

A new Child and Parent Centre is being built in Carey Park and is due for completion next year. Child and Parent Centres are a State Government initiative. The Child and Parent Centre Carey Park is run by Investing In Our Youth in partnership with Carey Park Primary School.

Coordinator of the Centre Annette Owen says that “MindUP™ is also about learning emotional regulation through the practice of ‘mindful attention’ – which is learning about your senses.”

“Evidence suggests, MindUP™ teaches children to think about their feelings before reacting in any given situation,” Mrs Owen said.

Shaping Brains Project Manager Sheryl Batchelor, from the charity the Benevolent Society in QLD, will be conducting training for teachers in the South West at the end of January next year. Any teachers interested in registering an interest in the MindUP™ training for 2014 should email for more information.

If you would like to see Investing In Our Youth demonstrate some of the MindUP™ activities and want to learn a little more about your brain – see Annette and Louise on October 9 at Paisley Square in Bunbury where they are taking part in Mental Health Week celebrations.

Share on Facebook

GAME ON! & Hello Sunday Morning

Have you heard? HELLOSUNDAYMORNING is making a change – one Sunday morning at a time! A movement promoting change – small changes or big changes but nonetheless a change in peoples lives regarding their relationship with alcohol. One member of IIOY has just signed up! We will keep you posted! Watch the intro to this very cool movement below.

An exciting report by the Young and Well CRC (in partnership with the Brain & Mind Research Institute, Black Dog Institute, Beyond Blue and Movember Foundation) focusing on young males aged between 16 to 25 years and the use of technology was released in July this year. Interestingly however not surprisingly, the use of technology in young people between 2008 and 2012 has increased dramatically with checking emails (2008 showed 13.4% to 2012 93.9%) and accessing social networks (2008 31.5% to 2012 92.7%) being the two most common ways young people use the internet. Below, are some key pointsIIOY has found interesting:

“Using a search engine (as opposed to accessing a specific site) was the most popular way to find information for a mental health, alcohol or other substance use problem in both surveys…”


“When asked how long a health problem needs to be present before a young person should seek help, two–thirds (66%) of young men responded ‘less than one month’ for a mental health problem; and 60% ‘less than one month’ for an alcohol or other substance use problem…”


“Young men with ‘moderate’ to ‘very high’ psychological distress were significantly more likely to have talked about their problems on the internet with other young people (23% vs 44%)”postquote1

Of the 13 recommendations, 7 and 11 really stood out us here at IIOY.

  • 7. Professional development should be provided to school counsellors, psychologists and chaplains to use online resources and tools.

Less than one in four participants in this survey would recommend professional support, either face–to–face or online, yet information on health and mental health on the internet was acceptable to young men.

  • 11. Campaigns for young men should be delivered in the social networks they frequent and focus on changing attitudes to help–seeking, stress management, alcohol or other substance misuse, bullying and violence and body image. These campaigns must be developed in partnership with young men.

Participants in this survey used social networking services such as Facebook and Twitter and both uploaded and downloaded digital content. Participants recognised alcohol or other substance misuse and mental health as the major health problems affecting young people aged 16 to 25 years. They understood when such problems began; their beliefs regarding when to seek help were accurate; and they reported feeling confident that they could get help for a close friend or family member. Coping with stress was the biggest issue facing young men, with almost 50% reporting stress as their main concern. One in four young men were concerned about depression (27%) and body image (26%) and 41% of young men felt concerned about their physical appearance on a daily basis. This suggests campaigns need to focus more on behaviour change and less on either awareness or knowledge. This should include practical solutions to managing stress, getting the right help at the right time and taking appropriate steps to help–seeking.          

Follow this link to download the full report.

What could this report do for anyone involved in working with young people, particularly young men? Perhaps apps for portable devices or online counselling links could be added to your resources for young people? Do you use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to reach your audience? If not, why not? The above report has just touched on how important it is to our young men.

Have a brilliant day – IIOY Crew.

Share on Facebook for Professionals – A Must See Site Professionals provides recommendations and advice for youth support workers and education professionals on a range of online interventions, tools and resources that can be used to support young people experiencing mental health difficulties and to build young people’s well-being and resilience.postquote1

An online resource for anyone working with young people – not limited to the mental health realm, to education providers also! Ranging from information on how to navigate the mental health system, to apps & online tools, classroom activities and the latest research. This site is truly looking like one-stop-shop! Although we have only just registered, it appears the site is still under construction with some subjects currently without any published information. We are really loving the Professional Development area, which hosts webinars and support tips for services! Check out this amazing resource here!

Share on Facebook

Professor Allan Fels introduces the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance

The Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance has been established by the National Mental Health Commission. They bring together leaders from a range of sectors including government, business and community to establish mentally healthy workplaces that support employees and their families. What could this look like? A pioneer in this movement is the Young and Well CRC who provide their staff a week of leave each year, “…for reflection, study, volunteering & other activities that aide personal growth & development. Just one way we build a mentally healthy workplace.”

To find out more about this movement visit:
If your workplace is a leader in providing employees with a mentally healthy workplace, you can showcase your approach on the website!

Share on Facebook

How can a doorway aid in the study of body image? & Is the pursuit of happiness making some people sadder?

It’s been a little since our last post. I recently stumbled across a great read ‘Anorexia study shows how doorways reveal body image clues’ which highlights the unconscious side of anorexia nervosa patients. Fascinatingly the study reveals the use of a doorway to observe the patient’s behaviour and their perception of themselves. Worth a read!

Is the pursuit of happiness impacting the people who feel sad, to feel sadder? A great article by Anna Salleh ‘Be happy and don’t worry about being sad’ discusses the research conducted by Dr Brock Bastian and colleagues, of the University of Queensland “Sometimes promoting happiness creates pressure on people, and that pressure can actually make them more sad,” says Bastian. This makes for great read regarding cultural differences too – the study compared reactions from people in both Australia and Japan – “People are much more expecting a balance between the different emotional states compared to the west.” Hence, there was less pressure to be happy. So could happiness be a measurement for the present time and instead of pursuing happiness, could we learn to accept that some of us have different emotional settings? An interesting notion no doubt. Perhaps an article worth following up on again in the near future.

Share on Facebook

We are entering a competition… maybe you could be a winner too!

IIOY was recently recommended as a potential candidate in entering the Bendigo Bank‘You Like’ WA Campaign – “Like A Local Project.” Make It Happen” and we thought, well why not?! Let’s give this a go! This competition is where we need you to help us continue our work in the community by liking our project! HOW? okay…check it out…

Basically the steps we need our supporters to take are:

Login to your Facebook.
Search and click on Bendigo Bank.
Click on the icon ‘WA ‘You Like’ Campaign’
Either allow your web browser to share your location with Bendigo Bank or simply type ‘Bunbury’ into the ‘search for local branch & project’ bar and follow the hyperlink to view the local branch and projects.
This is when you’ll probably get a ‘pop up’ box asking for your permission to allow Bendigo Bank app to access your deets and friends list – once you’ve clicked Okay you can vote away!
Helping Our Youth Be Alcohol Aware is OUR project we need your help in getting as many ‘likes’ as possible!

You have the opportunity once you’ve voted, to enter into the draw to win yourself $5000. Nice!

You can enter and vote daily!

On another note, IIOY is working to develop a couple of pretty cool programs in the realm of early childhood development and mental well being – a little hint: NEUROPLASTICITY! …watch this blog-space for future updates…

Share on Facebook

Can we talk … about mental illness and suicide? A snapshot of public opinion gathered from the conversations of everyday Australians.

Well worth a read.! This snapshot contains great insights from participants; what works in relation to keeping healthy both mentally and physically as well as how sharing stories not only evokes (calling up a memory from the past) but invokes (call upon something) stories and potentially aides in help seeking behaviours.
Research findings highlight community attitudes to mental health. This qualitative sampling of community opinion in relation to mental illness and suicide.

“The study’s findings will be used to inform the Commission’s public communications with Australians, including its first-ever report card on mental illness and suicide to be published later this year. The goal is to ensure that the Commission’s communications resonate with people both inside and outside of the mental health system.”
Share on Facebook

WhatWorks? Young people asked to anonymously share their take on Mental Health and the Real World! An interesting read on why we must rethink the use of the word ‘commit’…

Have you heard about is about gathering information from young people about what has/hasn’t worked in relation to mental health treatments. Young people who have experienced mental health problems are encouraged to assist in the building of knowledge about ‘what worked for you’! i.e. symptoms, treatments (what has and hasn’t worked), which health professionals were helpful and even the side effects from treatments! Best thing is, this is completely anonymous! is run by a group of researchers at Orygen Youth Health Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia. Orygen is the largest youth mental health research centre in Australia and its current research program aims to find out more about the factors that influence mental disorders, in order to prevent and/or reduce their impact on young people.”

Becoming part of providing professionals with real world experiences will take around 15 minutes.

WHAT ELSE IS NEWS? Well, we all know IIOY likes to keep up to date with research and read relevant articles that could impact how we act, talk, proceed when working with young people! We found this article by Susan Beaton MAPS, beyondblue Suicide Prevention Advisor, Dr Peter Forster MAPS, University of Worcester and Dr Myfanwy Maple MAASW, University of New England very interesting! Below is a table which gives us a brief look into appropriate language when reporting/writing about suicide. Check out the article hereNeed someone to talk to? Lifeline 13 11 14 or visit their website for links to more resources.

Share on Facebook

The Black Dog talks about their latest findings on Suicide

black-dog-instHave you heard about the The Black Dog Institute? These guys are research pioneers into mental-illness and well being. Their latest findings on ‘Testing predictors of suicide risk in a community setting’ which involved surveying more than 6000 participants, looks at the previous research (‘Joiner’s Interpersonal Theory of Suicide’) and continued along the risk pathway of suicide ideation – links with ‘acquired capability’ for suicide. This make for an interesting informative brief read.

Share on Facebook

etools – online apps to use when working with young people

smiling-mindThe use of etools is on the rise! But wait…what is an etool? Well an etool is easily summed up as an electronic educational interactive, Web-based training program/application!

Practitioners, services and the public alike are engaging in the use of this new and exciting technology. Recently, the Young and Well CRC published an interview with psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg about the different etools (including apps and online programs) he uses with his adolescent clients.

One particular app Dr Carr-Gregg mentioned is Smiling Mind. Dr Carr-Gregg stated that ‘Young people adore this (app)…It is meditation app customised by age for anxiety and depression.”

Online tools and programs may also play an important role in reaching rural and remote populations where services are limited.

Follow this link to find out what etools you may be able to use with your clients or perhaps, try for yourself.

Share on Facebook