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By UNICEF Australia
9 October 2018

My name is Ally and I am one of nine UNICEF Australia Young Ambassadors for 2018-19. Today is World Mental Health Day - an initiative created by the world Federation for Mental Health to increase public awareness and acceptance of mental health issues worldwide. 

Growing up, I heard terms like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but they were concepts, rather than words that had personal meaning to me and which I understood well. 

When I was 12, nobody really connected the word depression with me and what I was experiencing. Where I lived, mental health issues were covered with a heavy layer of stigma. As a result, it was difficult for me to understand why I felt the way I did and to access help I was comfortable with. It also made it harder for others to recognise what was wrong and provide support.

A young women wearing a UNICEF t-shirt and reading glasses is laying across a bench in a park
Working with headspace, Ally says she has had the opportunity to help improve Australia’s approach to youth mental health.

A few years later, having recovered, I decided to turn my experience living as a young person with mental health issues into something positive by becoming involved with headspace National Youth Mental Health Foundation at a local and then national level.

Working with headspace, I've had the opportunity to team up with other passionate young people to continue improving Australia's approach to youth mental health, breaking down misconceptions and growing awareness. 

Australia Young Ambassador Ally Finnis©UNICEF/MORAN

At UNICEF, one of our core beliefs is that children and young people are experts in their own lives. It's your right to have a say in issues that affect you. To me, this is especially true in the case of mental health. 

When we, as children and young people, know and understand mental health issues and feel safe to seek help for them, we're better able to support not only ourselves but each other. When we share and value our own and others' stories, we let others know they don't walk alone. We can embrace, rather than isolate. 

""Mental ill-health doesn't discriminate, so why should we?""

Ally Finnis

The theme for World Mental Health Day this year is "do you see what I see?". It asks each of us to think about how we perceive mental health issues and, more importantly, the people who live with them. If we're all on the same page, then together we can work to reduce stigma and open avenues through which everyone can seek help and support. 

If you need to speak to someone, please call:

  • Headspace National Office: (03) 9027 0100
  • Lifeline: 13 11 14
  • Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
A group of 9 young people wearing UNICEF t-shirts smiling and looking directly into the camera
Ally with the other 8 Young Ambassadors for 2018