Research — 10 July 2014

Sexting, homophobia, mental health and obesity are the top concerns for young people in western Sydney, according to a new report released today.

The DIY Reality Report released by Youth Action NSW in Parramatta in western Sydney outlined 21 recommendations for the State Government which cover seven key issues – sustainability, gender, culture, sexuality, humanitarian and physical and mental health.

The report included data collected from participants of the What’s Up West? conference held in Penrith last year and additional consultations with young people, schools and youth services.bigstock_Help_button_concept_17049809

“All in all, we consulted with 170 young people from across the 14 LGAs [Local Government Areas] in western Sydney,” said Alex Long, the Western Sydney project coordinator for Youth Action NSW.

She said the report challenges the stigma around western Sydney and calls for social change.

“Young people in western Sydney know their stuff, they know these issues, they’re passionate about these issues and they want to take action,” she said.

“They’re not about to wait around for someone else to do it, they’re going to act now.”

Young people passionate about mental health

Participant Ananda Vasudevan from Lidcombe said she was concerned about mental health issues among young people.

“Young people want to help their friends who are facing mental health issues like depression and anxiety but they don’t know how to approach the topic,” she said.

But the 18-year-old psychology student from the University of NSW said new ways of reaching out to young people are needed.

“We need to look at better ways of disseminating information about seeking professional help,” she said.

“Often young people said they didn’t want to seek professional help because of the stigma attached to mental health.”

Paul Nguyen, 17, from Guildford, had experienced discrimination based on his sexuality and is passionate about tackling homophobia and sex discrimination.

“I’ve experienced lots of hate and stigma,” he said.

“It’s really shocking.

“It makes me sad to see other people not fully express themselves because of the labels.”

The Year 12 student said the Government can combat sexual discrimination through gender diversity awareness and programs.

“We need programs to better educate people about gender diversity,” he said.

“The stigma that we’re [western Sydney youth] lazy, hopeless and can’t get jobs isn’t true.”

Susan Chen, 19, called on the Government to adopt a culturally inclusive approach to policy and events.

“A lot of the symbols around what it means to be Australian are Anglo-centred and that makes it really difficult for a lot of young people from diverse cultural backgrounds to identify with,” she said.

“It’s up to the Government and people in power to facilitate that [change].”

This article first appeared on ABC on 8 July, 2014.

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