TEACHING MENTAL FITNESS THROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY

What is the Unframed Project?

The Unframed Project is an interactive programme that teaches positive mental health strategies through photography and educates young people about services that can help them through challenging times.

Mental fitness is taught through  photography activities encompassing the photographic principles of composition, focus, exposure and contrast. This facilitates discussions on problem solving, mental health challenges,  positive mental health strategies and  identifying when and where to get help. We love photography (and so do the students!!) because it is interactive, fun, creative and engages students to learn about mental health and how to get help in a judgement free zone.

Why is 'mental fitness' important for young people?

Adolescence is the time of greatest change in one's lifetime. During adolescence, the brain develops at different stages and this may result in an increased tendency to take part in risk taking behaviours. Often it's difficult for a young person to distinguish what feels normal or abnormal because of the amount of changes in their brain and body. Adolescents often question their identity,  and although they seek independence and connections with others, they may also feel vulnerable and isolated.

It is important to inform adolescents what good mental fitness is and acknowledge that during one's lifetime  challenges are normal, and it's okay to feel overwhelmed and experience difficult emotions. What's not okay is making a decision to hurt themselves or end their life.  Many young people experiencing mental health problems do not seek professional help because of lack of mental health knowledge, stigma, shame and limited access to help. In fact, young people are more likely to go to family and friends for help. 

What is 'mental fitness'?

Mental fitness is when an individual can regulate their emotions, has optimal cognitive function, recognises when feelings and emotions are overwhelming and is able to interact with others appropriately. Here at the Unframed Project, the terms 'mental fitness' and 'mental health' are interchangeable. There is still a stigma associated with the words 'mental health' and this can be a  barrier for young people to talk about their emotions and challenges. Hence, both 'mental fitness' and 'mental health' are used during workshops to help break that stigma.

What the research tells us..

75% of mental health problems occur before the age of 25 years, 50% by the age of 14 years.***

Anxiety and depression are the biggest mental health issues amongst our youth.*

Self harm is highest in adolescents than any other age groups.*

Suicide is the leading cause of death for 15 - 24 year olds.*

1 in 7 young people aged 4-17 years experience a mental health condition in any given year.**

Only 31% of young women and 13% of young men with mental health problems access help.**

There is NO evidence that talking to a young person about suicide is harmful. Young people find relief when talking about distressing thoughts and behaviours.

How does the Unframed Project help young people?

The Unframed Project is about 'unframing' mental health education. Mental health education needs to be more than brochures, lectures and  awareness days. Mental health is a continuum. The core belief of the Unframed Project is that sharing real life stories of overcoming difficult times is the way forward  to helping young people develop 'mental fitness' and positive mental health coping strategies. This creates greater connection and engagement with  students as the workshops  are always delivered in a safe supportive environment. 

Every workshop also involves the students participating in a KINDNESS project. The power of giving and receiving kindness to one self and others, contributes to staying mentally fit and the students have commented many times how good it makes them feel.

Photography is a tool to deliver messages of hope and resilience to young people. It is not about the camera, but seeing life  through a different viewfinder and learning skills to get through the difficult times and becoming mentally fit in the process.


Sandra Guzzi - Founder

Bachelor of Science - Nursing (Curtin University, Perth)

Graduate Certificate Suicide Prevention & Youth Self Harm Minimisation (University of Melbourne)

Graduate Certificate Critical Care Nursing (Australian College of Nursing, Sydney)

Youth Mental Health First Aid (2020)

Good Grief Facilitator (2020)



References

*Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2017, Causes of Death

**Lawrence D, Johnson S, Hafekost J, Boterhoven De Haan K, Sawyer M, Ainley J, Zubrick SR. (2015). The Mental Health of Children and Adolescents. Report on the second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Canberra: Department of Health.

***Kessler, RD et al. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62: p. 593-602.


The Unframed Project would like to acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as Australia‚Äôs First People and Traditional Custodians. We respect the traditions and cultures of Elders past and present and seek to provide mental health education in a culturally acceptable way to all youth.