New world-leading mental health program for young Canberrans



A new mental health program will be rolled out to Year 9 students in the 2020 school year, to build resilience, encourage help-seeking and equip young people with the confidence to look after themselves and each other.

The Youth Aware of Mental Health program or YAM, is part of the Black Dog Institute’s LifeSpan Framework being rolled out in the ACT, and will be targeted at 14 to 16-year-olds.

Minister for Mental Health Shane Rattenbury said with 70% of mental illness and suicidal behaviours beginning between the ages of 12 to 25 years, the Government is focussed on improving the mental health and wellbeing of Canberra’s young people.

“To support our young people through an often-challenging stage of life, YAM will be rolled out to Year 9 students in high schools across the ACT next year,” Minister Rattenbury said.

“I encourage high schools throughout the ACT to be proactive and to take part in this valuable program, to support the mental health and wellbeing of our young people.

“YAM is a world-leading program that aims to empower young people to learn coping and problem-solving skills, gain knowledge about mental health, build resilience, and promote early intervention and help seeking behaviours.

“Trained YAM instructors take students through guided role-play sessions, covering six central themes, including stress and crisis, depression and suicidal thoughts, helping a friend in need, self-help and where to seek advice.

“A key benefit of YAM is no hierarchy between instructors, helpers or students, which provides a safe, non-judgmental space to explore problems that are important to young people, encouraging them to come to their own decisions through shared discussion and learning.

“Looking after your mental health, as well as your physical health are important skills that will continue to support young people, and their wellbeing, throughout their lives.”

YAM has been shown to reduce suicide attempts and severe suicidal ideation, reduce depression and anxiety, and facilitate healthy lifestyle choices amongst young people in European trials.

The program has been adapted by the Black Dog Institute for Australian school students and has since been delivered to over 11,000 students over the past two years as part of the NSW-based LifeSpan trial.

This innovative mental health and suicide prevention initiative is being implemented by the ACT Health Directorate, the Office of Mental Health and Wellbeing and ACT Education, in partnership with the Black Dog Institute.

Funding for this initiative has been made available through the Commonwealth Government’s Community Health and Hospitals Program.

More information on available mental health services in ACT can be found at

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