To mark the start of Hearing Week 2019, the Morrison Government is investing a further $237,000 in programs for deaf and hearing-impaired teenagers at risk of mental health issues, Australia’s Health Ministry announced on its website.

The funds will support the work of Hear For You, a charity that has been addressing the mental health concerns of deaf and hearing-impaired teenagers since 2008. According to the announcement, the investment will assist Hear For You to improve the mental health of 9,000 deaf and hearing-impaired teenagers across Australia.

Mental health is a leading concern for Australian teenagers, with research showing deaf teenagers are three times more likely than their hearing peers to experience mental health and social isolation challenges. Among the 9,000 deaf teenagers attending secondary schooling in Australia, up to 90% identify as the only deaf student in their school.

Since 2016, 30% of enrollments in Hear For You programs have been migrant or refugee teenage children. Hear For You is said to provide them with the support to reduce social isolation, including opportunities for them to engage with their migrant community and other deaf teenagers with similar backgrounds.

There has also been a growth in demand from teenagers in rural and regional Australia, who now make up 60% of those registering for Hear For You’s Life Goals and Skills Blast programs or accessing online services.  For the first time, these teenagers have the opportunity to meet role models and talk about mental health issues, social isolation, and the other challenges that come with being the only deaf teenager in their community.

Funding will go to support the administration, operations, and delivery of in-person mentoring programs run by Hear For You. It will also go towards new online support services, League of Heroes and Chatbot, which provide continuing support for deaf teenagers across the nation.

In addition to the $237,000, the Morrison Government provided funding of $13,000 to support a special youth forum at Macquarie University on January 21.

The forum was chaired by Hear For you Chairperson Kim Jones and included health professionals and young deaf and hearing-impaired Australians. The Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, Minister Senior Australians and Aged Care, and Minister for Indigenous Health, attended, along with the charity’s CEO David Brady.

Key findings will be documented in a “roadmap” that sets out future reform directions and priorities for hearing health in Australia.

The Morrison Government is committed to improving the mental health outcomes of all Australians. In the 2018–19 Budget it was said to provide a record total of $338.1 million for this purpose.

Source: Australian Health Ministry