Mental illness is a growing issue among young people in Australia, affecting one quarter annually and contributing to nearly 50% of the burden of disease in young people. 
A 2017 Mission Australia annual survey found that 87% of females and 82% of males go to their friends for help with an important issues . This is why peer education is an important mental health promotion strategy to teach young people mentally healthy behaviours.
The Act-Belong-Commit Youth Connectors program involves engaging young people between the ages of 16 and 25 in the Act-Belong-Commit principles for good mental health, and up-skilling them to be able to assist and encourage peers to engage in mentally healthy activities.
The Youth Connectors program started as a part of a Graduate Health Promotion scholarship from the Australia Health Promotion association (WA branch) in 2016, and has been developed in consultation with 35 young Western Australians across regional and metro areas.
The key objectives of the Youth Connectors program are:
- Increase knowledge on the behaviours that protect and promote good mental health
- Increase awareness of mental health and the factors that affect mental health
- Shift perceptions of mental health to encompass wellbeing, de-stigmatise mental illness, and encourage help-seeking behaviour
- Increase participation in mentally healthy activities
- Increase resilience amongst youth in both regional and metro areas of WA
- An increased capacity to empower others to take up mentally healthy behaviours
“Since the workshop I have utilised skills provided to me by encouraging young people in town get connected with other youth, get actively involved in the community and helped increased their feeling of belonging."
- Workshop Participant, November 2017
The Youth Connectors Workshop
Young people interested in becoming a Youth Connector attend a two-hour interactive workshop where they get to meet likeminded individuals and participate in educational and interactive activities.
The workshop encourages young individuals between the ages of 16 to 25 with a passion for mental health and wellbeing to become volunteer ‘Act-Belong-Commit Connectors’; Connectors are a local source of information and encourage their peers to engage in mentally healthy activities. Connectors direct their peers to the website and ‘Guide to Keeping Mentally Healthy’, and, where applicable, help to navigate the Guide and the website.
After the workshop, Youth Connectors are provided with a package including a variety of useful resources such as the Act-Belong-Commit Guide to Keeping Mentally Healthy, factsheets, where to get help cards, role-plays with suggested responses and more. Participants are also invited to join a private Facebook group where they can continue on the conversation post-workshop, reach out for advice, and build their networks.
“The most useful part of the workshop is the support network that is opened up to a person as a youth connector. We can talk to other youth connectors, we have access to resources to encourage people to seek professional advice and help, as well as defining that 'I am not a doctor, I am a friend.”
– Workshop participant, June 2016
To find out more about the Youth Connectors program, or how you can become more mentally healthy, contact Youth Connectors Program Coordinator Darci Miller on (08) 9266 9791 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. 2007. Young Australians: their health and Wellbeing (Cat. no. PHE 87).Canberra: AIHW. Retrieved from: http://www.aihw.gov.au/publications/index.cfm/title/10451
Mission Australia Youth Survey Report 2017, pg.24, accessed at https://www.missionaustralia.com.au/what-we-do/research-evaluation/youth-survey