Preventing mental illness before it starts is at the heart of a bold new partnership spearheaded by Smiling Mind and bolstered with a $3.6 million investment from DECJUBA Foundation over three years.
Smiling Mind is Australia’s leading children’s mental health not-for-profit and the innovators behind Australia’s most trusted mental wellbeing app, of the same name, DECJUBA Foundation is the philanthropic arm of leading Australian fashion retailer, DECJUBA.
“This investment is DECJUBA Foundation’s largest to date and is significant within the broader philanthropy sector,” said Tania Austin, DECJUBA CEO and Philanthropist.
“We are funding Smiling Mind to do what they do best; deliver preventative and proactive mental health initiatives for Australian children and families.”
Together, Smiling Mind and DECJUBA Foundation will launch an initiative called The Smiling Mind Generation, a social movement providing Australian children, parents and school communities with mental health and well-being resources and tools designed to build and maintain their mental fitness anytime, anywhere.
Building mental fitness in childhood can provide protective factors and coping mechanisms to navigate the tumultuous years of adolescence.
“Smiling Mind has an ambitious mission to create generational change in Australia’s mental health,” said Dr Addie Wootten, Smiling Mind CEO.
“We believe the only way to turn around the mental health crisis we are facing is to empower a generation of Australian children with the skills to thrive and look after their mental well-being which can help prevent mental health challenges later in life. We are so grateful DECJUBA Foundation has decided to partner with us to help achieve this.”
Australian children’s mental health and well-being isn’t regularly measured. The last time a national survey was taken in 2014, 1 in 7 Australian children and adolescents aged 4-17 were experiencing mental illness.
Today, 7 out of 10 of the most common presentations to pediatricians are related to mental health needs, yet despite this, evidence suggests 50% of children with mental health challenges don’t access professional help.
“It was confronting to discover how prevalent childhood mental illness is in Australia and how little is invested in preventing it. I am committed to shifting Australia’s mental health conversation to be about health rather than illness and prevention rather than crisis,” added Tania.
50% of all adult mental health issues emerge before the age of 14 and over the past 15 years, there has been a 50% increase in the rate of mental illness in Australian youth.
Despite the evidence that our current system is failing children and young people, there are no accessible, engaging, age-appropriate preventative mental health programs for Australian children aged 5-12.
“Smiling Mind has had the vision for The Smiling Mind Generation for a long-time but no avenue to bring it to life,” added Dr Wootten.
“This social movement will put a spotlight on the often overlooked and poorly understood reality of childhood mental illness and provide Australian children and parents with useful resources and tools. DECJUBA Foundation’s investment is supporting us to kickstart this vital work.”
Menchie Khairuddin is a writer Deputy Content Manager at Akolade and content producer for Third Sector News. She is passionate about social affairs specifically in mixed, multicultural heritage and not-for-profit organisations.