Young people in Port Stephens have a safe space to talk about challenges or issues they may face after the launch of a new service.
Charity group Caring for Our Port Stephens Youth (COPSY) are providing free counselling for those aged between 12 and 18 years old inside two rooms at Tomaree Library and Community Centre, Salamander Bay.
The community-based program, known as Jupiter – A Space to Talk, officially launched last week.
Jupiter has been used for centuries to navigate around the globe, while the planet is one of the brightest lights in the sky and can be considered a beacon to attract youth.
COPSY president, John de Ridder, said the charity had worked hard to introduce the service.
“A few of us came up with the concept back in 2014 but, as with most things, you don’t get funding and community support unless it’s evidence-based,” he told Newcastle Weekly.
“A 2016 report found, as we expected, that there was a real need for it here.
“The benchmark for mental health is headspace, but the nearest [locations] are in Maitland and Newcastle – that’s just too far for kids on the peninsula here.
“Affordability was the second issue – we all agreed the first priority was to get the counselling service up and running, but then we had to decide where to put it.”
Mr de Ridder added COPSY initially wanted to launch the service 12 months ago but found it difficult to attract funds for psychologists.
He said the charity then opted to wait and see if it proved successful.
“We’ve now got three psychologists part-time,” he said.
“[The service] actually started after Christmas, but we didn’t want to launch until we knew it was working properly, and I’m very pleased to say that it is.
“Anecdotal evidence, as well as what’s in the report, told us that we’re going to have lots of visitors, so we’ve just got to figure out how to handle that demand.”
Mr de Ridder said depression and anxiety, school exam pressure, bullying, cyber bullying and drug problems were all common issues for young people.
However, he added there was far less stigma around mental health than previous generations.
“Kids today are a lot more supportive of each other,” he said.
Jupiter has provided a local counsellor and all three psychologists from Mondays to Wednesdays, between 3pm and 7pm.
The library’s fit-out was made possible through a $53,000 grant from Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation, while the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England and Central Coast Primary Health Network and Port Stephens Council provided vital research and financial support.
Visit copsy.com.au for more information on the charity.