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By Nisha Labade
7 September 2022

When it comes to the power of an open conversation no one knows better than UNICEF Australia’s Young Ambassadors.

Recently, our incredible team of young advocates had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Arlo Parks, award-winning musician and UNICEF UK High Profile Supporter, while she was here on tour in Australia.

Here’s how it went...

How important is our mental health as young people?

Arlo: I think for me, mental health is what got me into working with UNICEF and it's just been one of my core focuses from the very beginning.

It's about making mental health support more accessible, something that everyone can tap into. Mental health problems don't discriminate, and everyone has a mind to take care of.

I think having accessibility, in terms of what people learn about school and learning how to self soothe, meditate or just process their emotions, is something that hasn't quite yet penetrated certain communities. Therapy is still very expensive and still feels quite exclusive.

"I think trying to facilitate mental health support to be something that everyone can have access to is important. "

Arlo, 22
UNICEF UK High Profile Supporter
Two images side by side. One is a whiteboard what says 'Welcome Arlo'. The other one is a group of young people seating on bean bags and talking. Arlo Parks is in the image.
Left: Welcome sign created by Manon, a UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador. Right: Arlo Parks in conversation with the Young Ambassadors at UNICEF Australia office in Sydney.
© UNICEF Australia/2022/Labade

How do you balance your personal life, career and mental health?

Finding community is something that makes you feel stronger. Growing up, I didn't have that many friends but through music I found community, it made it [later fame, life] easier. Starting to do music also gave me confidence and led to my sense of identity.

“This is who I am, and this is who I love” was my mantra, made me feel stronger and more confident to be myself. 

But people who have success still struggle. Writing, making and listening to music has been one of the biggest kinds of therapy for me, and it's something that anyone can do. I think when I found out about how therapeutic journaling or writing a song or poem could be, I was like, “wow.”

A lot of people feel maybe it’s not for them because of the kind of literature that they learn at school or because they don't know how to do it. That's something that I want to do more of, working with young people, doing workshops to explain how I do it [take care of my mental health and wellbeing] so they can try it themselves.

"I really loved meeting Arlo today. She spoke a lot about surrounding herself with an honest, good group of people so that you have support to be true to yourself and achieve all your goals and dreams, no matter what. This really resonated with me and every Young Ambassador in the room."

Zara, 20
UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador

"Arlo highlighted how important it was that we put mental health above anything else. We can do all these things for other people in our lives, but if we don't look after ourselves, we can't be our best selves. She gave examples about meditation, reading books, going for walks with her dog, putting on a podcast and cooking yourself a meal. It was insightful, not only into her personality, but about things that we can apply to our own lives to practice mindfulness."

Harrison, 20
UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador
Arlo Parks and another young woman laughing.
Mental health professional and Young Ambassador, Emily Unity, connects with Arlo on the topics of identity and lived experience with mental health during the conversation.
© UNICEF Australia/2022/Labade

As a young person, what's your vision for the future?

I'm extremely optimistic. It's difficult to sometimes when you're looking at the news, and you're seeing everything that's happening. But the real change comes from people.

I found talking to the Young Ambassador's really inspiring. I think the beautiful thing was seeing how they had transformed their difficult lived experiences into a real desire to make things better.

The people that I'm meeting made me feel so hopeful about what's to come. I think that real sense of empathy, of people being so selfless, wanting to make change off their own time, off their own back, it makes me hopeful for the support that the next generation is going to have coming up. Hopefully the world's a better place for that.

"It was a fantastic experience; Arlo was so down to earth! It was very refreshing, and we had some very productive conversations about identity, racism and advocacy. It's really changed our perspective on what it means to ‘make it,’ to be successful whilst continuing to make positive impact in our communities and the broader world."

Jahin, 21
UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador
A group of young people and Arlo Parks smiling to the camera.
Arlo gathers with all the Young Ambassadors after the empowering conversation. From left: Chris, Zara, Kbora, Harrison, Grace, Manon, Amber, Isabelle, Emily, Arlo and Jahin.
© UNICEF Australia/2022/Labade