Helping young people with mental illness…..


I was reading an article a couple of days ago about the prevalence of mental health issues in adolescents. What struck me, and deeply saddened me, was the statistic that of all visits to health professionals by 13 – 21 year old people, almost 40% of them were for depression, anxiety and other mental health concerns. And these are the kids who are actually seeking help… the number could rise significantly if we include unsupported, financially stressed and struggling kids and families.

A study by the ANU Centre for Mental Health Research showed that 28% of people in the 19 – 21 year old age bracket had had experience with mental illness at some point. The other disturbing fact was that their research found that these kids had major concerns about the stigma surrounding mental health issues and significantly overestimated the reaction of others. These concerns often prevented them from seeking help. We need to make it easier for our kids to get the help they need and talking openly and compassionately about mental illness is a good start.

At a time in your life when you are accutely aware of how you are perceived, when you are trying to work out who you are, when you are flooded with unattainable, unrealistic and often negative images it is little wonder that kids can feel reluctant to seek help or even to let someone know that they are struggling.

So what are the signs to look out for : 

Sleeplessness/ Insomnia
Changed behaviour – problems at school, lack of or excessive socialisation
Loss of interest in hobbies or sport
Concentration problems
Anger / Agitation
Sadness, hopelessness, tearfulness
Feelings of guilt
Lack of self worth
Difficulty making decisions
Excessive or inappropriate worrying
Loss of appetite or weight changes

It’s worth talking to your kids about these issues even if you feel that they are ok. When you look at the statistics and consider that nearly 1 in 3 kids is affected at some point it is highly likely that you have a child or know a child who may be struggling.

Early intervention is key to addressing the problem before it can take hold and take over. Seeing a naturopath is a great start – at NaturoCath Naturopathy you will find a compassionate listener and herbal and nutritional support.  Assessments can be done to check for potential physiological problems which may be driving the illness and a plan can be formulated to provide support such as counselling, advice and co-ordination of care with schools, GP’s or psychologists. This approach provides a multi faceted, supportive structure and reduces the likelihood of progression to antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications.

If medications are already being used, or if it is necessary to go on to medications we can work co-operatively with GP’s and psychiatrists to ensure that the medications are used in the most effective way and are supported by diet and optimal nutrition.

Talk to your kids, let them know you care enough to have the conversation no matter how hard it is. Help them develop resilience and self worth. Most importantly, take the time to listen. It may be the most important conversation of your life.

Dinner – healthy, delicious and easy on the hip pocket…..


In a nod to my last post about poverty and health I thought some cheap and tasty dinner recipes maybe in order. Who says you have to be rich to eat like royalty ?

Sweet potato sloppy joes 

Scrub some small to medium sized sweet potatoes, prick with a fork and place directly onto rack in a hot oven. Bake till really soft.

Split the sweet potatoes lengthwise and top with anything yummy looking from the fridge or garden. Sour cream, chilli sauce, salad, cheese, grated carrot, tomatoes and herbs.

This simple dinner is always yummy, has great kid appeal and is cheap cheap cheap to make.

Not quite caesar salad. 

1/2 loaf good quality bread
1 clove garlic
250g block firm tofu
Soy sauce
Sesame oil
Parmesan cheese
Salad leaves, cos is best

1 avocado
juice of a lemon
1 tablespoon seeded mustard
2 tablespoons of honey or apple juice concentrate
oilive oil

Tear up the bread and place in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, a clove of crushed garlic, salt and pepper. Toss, move to a baking tray and place in a hot oven until crispy.

Chop tofu into small pieces and marinate in sesame and soy sauce for a few minutes. Drain and fry till crispy and golden.

Mix all salad dressing ingredients in a blender or shake like crazy in a jar till creamy.

Assemble your salad, adding any other yummy green things from the garden – snow peas, asparagus, herbs – and toss through dressing.

So there you have it – quick, healthy, economical and yummy.

Type ‘recipes’ into the search bar of this blog for lots more options for feasting on a budget.

Wellness for everyone, not just the wealthy….


I was listening to ABC radio this morning… I know, I know I used to be such a triple j girl…. and there was an incredibly disturbing program about the latest ACOSS ( Australian Council of Social Services) report on poverty in Australia.

One in eight adults and one in six children are currently living in poverty in this country – one of the richest countries in the world. I know that a first world view of poverty is distinctly different and far less life threatening than a third world one but it still makes me incredibly sad to think that 1 in 6 children often goes without meals, is under threat of or is actually homeless and is generally missing out on opportunities they deserve.

Some of the most striking things about poverty is the lack of access to healthy nourishing food, good health care and safe housing. When so many of us, myself included, are so incredibly fortunate to feel secure and supported it seems wrong that as a society we are allowing some of our most vulnerable suffer like this. How can we accept that one child come to school after a safe and comfortable nights sleep with a lunchbox full of food and another arrives hungry, tired and homeless ?

During the show someone mentioned that they wished that they had the option to direct their compulsary superannuation funds to more worthwhile and community minded areas than the stock exchange. He suggested a pooling of funds for community housing, childcare and education. Huzzah I say. What a great idea and where do I sign ???

I guess what I am trying to say is that I think we need a shift. Why is McDonald’s a more financially viable meal than a fresh home cooked meal ? Why do we think it’s ok to fill our children with highly processed, health destroying foods and then expect them to function well ? Why do we import foods from thousands of miles away and have so few community gardens? Why can you go to a medical centre and receive often poor health care and a script for drugs and yet not be able to see another type of health professional who is interested and willing to help you learn about health and disease prevention at a more functional and practical level ?

While I was listening to the program I was watching a council worker planting more annuals into garden beds. Don’t get me wrong, I love flowers and think they provide a little heart warming and bee food wherever they are, but if we area going to plant water hungry plants in public spaces can we not at least make them edible? How about a glorious bed of silvery beautiful artichokes, parsley borders and carrots for kids to pull up and eat after they finish on the swings.

I know some people say this is all a bit pie in the sky but I say it is fundamental to our health and happiness. Many years ago my mother, a psychiatric nurse, told me that we are all just a few choices or mishaps away from the gutter and she was right. Meeting those clients of hers – from all walks of life and society – and seeing them all in the same struggles taught me to never take what we have for granted.

Gratitude and compassion – these things will take us all a long way.

Getting your patch ready for spring

It’s the last day of winter and although it’s still cold here at our mountains home – the fire has been going all day and it’s windy outside my window – but I am thinking happy thoughts of spring planting.

This time of year makes me want to head outdoors and get elbow deep in mushroom compost. Lucky for me my beloved delivered 25 bags of compost to my vege patch and all my new plantings are nestled nicely in their mulchy blankets.

This is the time to get your garden in order. I love these seasonal changes. I am feeding the soil with homemade compost to replenish soils after a productive winter. Mulching is keeping weeds at bay, improving soil health, retaining moisture and keeping heat in. I am preparing beds for seeds and finding containers to raise seedlings. Yes I am a bit obsessed – it’s deeply satisfying and makes me very happy indeed.

If you want to get a bit more organised it can be helpful to keep an eye on what you planted where. By rotating crops and avoiding planting similar crops in the same place eg, leafy plants, brassicas, you drastically reduce the chance of pests and disease. By feeding the soil and rotating crops I have never needed to use sprays, pesticides, herbicides or fertilisers ever. Hooray.

If you are looking for a spring planting guide you can hardly go past Gardening Australia’s website ….

Happy gardening. It’s a lovely, productive, peaceful, nourishing act of political and social activism.