On 3 November 2015, the Youth Media Team met with Susan from the Bungee Youth Resilience Program and asked her a few questions about the program and her experience of working in schools.
1. How did you personally get involved with Bungee and why?
Susan: I had always wanted to be an art teacher, not only because I love art and making art, but also because I strongly believe in the therapeutic value of art and what it can teach us about life. I heard about a job going in Bungee as the program assistant which involved being an art tutor. I was lucky enough to win the job five years ago and now I am the Coordinator and a qualified high school art teacher and I love teaching art in the Bungee program.
2. What are the issues for young people involved with Bungee? What issues do they raise with you?
Susan: Many of the children and young people have mild to moderate mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Some have been bullied at school or are facing challenges in their home life. We have a specific program for managing anxiety so young people talk about their anxiety in a group setting. In our Individual Support Program, children and young people usually talk quite openly with our counsellors about their issues and the challenges they are facing. We encourage students to talk about any issues they have and if we can’t resolve them, we suggest other services they can access.
3. How do you develop and maintain good relationships with young people who access your service?
Susan: Our tutors create safe, welcoming, supportive and positive environments for Bungee participants. We take an interest in each individual and this helps to build trust and respect and ultimately strengthen relationships between participants and tutors. We encourage all our participants in their creative pursuits and offer choice in how the participants can express themselves creatively.
4. What is the best way to get young people listening and talking about mental health?
Susan: We nurture relationships built on trust and respect, in order to be able to embark on conversations around mental health. The great thing about arts classes( drama, circus, visual arts, music) is that they provide alternative ways for young people to express their issues regarding mental health. This is the essence of the Bungee program.
5. Why is stigma such a huge issue?
Susan: Stigma is a very complex matter and I really cannot answer that question in a paragraph or a whole page! The more we educate young people and primary school aged kids about mental health issues, the better chances of reducing stigma. It’s going to take a long time to change the way people feel about mental health issues. In our Cool Kids program, kids between the ages of 9 and 12 openly discuss their anxiety in a safe and secure group setting. This is a great way to reduce stigma.
6. Do you have other programs to address issues besides mental health?
Susan: No, we don’t. Bungee is specifically an early intervention program for children and young people experiencing mild to moderate mental health issues. Other issues may come up, however, and we are happy to discuss whatever issues the students wish to discuss.
7. How many schools do you work with? Do you want to or have the capacity to work with more?
Susan: For 8 or 9 weeks of each school term, Bungee runs weekly programs in three schools in Belconnen/Northside and at three schools in Tuggeranong.
8. What are the challenges in engaging with schools?
Susan: Communication. Making time to enable Bungee staff to visit schools more often, to see Bungee in action, meet students and the school contact, and provide support to our tutors.
9. In your ideal world, how would you like your service to work with schools?
Susan: I think it would be good to run our three programs in just one school each term, so we could get to know students and build better relationships with staff and students and get a feeling for the school culture.
The Bungee Youth Resilience Program, an initiative of Belconnen Community Service, is an early intervention program helping children and young people from ages 5 to 18. The program uses an arts-based approach to connect with young people, from painting to making jewellery, and provides therapeutic support as well.
Bungee works mainly in primary schools and community centres in Tuggeranong and Belconnen, and is designed to aid children who are at risk of or are developing mental health issues. Bungee is based in a school for either a term or semester, running sessions that allow them to converse with and counsel both the school and the children alike. They run a few different programs – after school classes, ‘Worry Busters’, the in-school programs, and support for both individuals and parents.
The after-school classes are based in the Belconnen Community Centre and the Tuggeranong Child and Family Centre, and include Art and Craft classes, Drama, and Youth Art – each has a designated age group. The ‘Worry Busters’ program is for children aged 9-12 and aims to help children (and their parents) to manage anxiety problems, trying to develop social skills and boost self-confidence. The in-school programs consist of activities in small groups, which build social behaviour and involve teachers.
Bungee also provides counselling for children and young people, and involves aspects of their other programs – arts and other creative activities. Bungee’s varied programs are intended to support children who may be experiencing the early stages of mental health issues, using simple methods of creative expression to develop relationships with their clients and invite them to fully interact with the service.
For more information or to get involved with Bungee, contact Belconnen Community Service on 02 6264 0242 or 02 6264 0241. Their website information is currently being updated.