Small steps to tackle mental health

Mitchell Shire youth mayor Ebony Layley, right, is joined by fellow councillor Thomas Starkey in Canberra at the Power to the People conference.

By Steph McNicol

A LACK of mental health support services for young people was enough motivation for Mitchell Shire youth mayor Ebony Layley to find a positive way to tackle the issue.

Ms Layley attended the Power to the People conference in Canberra in August last year, where she secured funding to host a six-week mental health workshop for youth aged 12 to 24.

She presented an idea to a crowd of more than 200 people who were able to vote for her idea so she could receive funding.

“At the start of the conference, they explained funding was available, and if we wanted to apply we had to write down 100 words explaining why we wanted it,” she said.

“I thought to myself, I can do that. Then it turned out we had to present our idea in front of 200 people. I was terrified, I had to get on stage with five other people and everyone had to vote.”

Ms Layley said while the crowd decided on who to vote for, all the applicants had to face the opposite direction.

She said she heard organisers say ‘Ebony Layley has secured the funding’.

“It was just over $2000. I just began balling my eyes out,” she said.

The youth mayor decided to plan a six-week mental health workshop centred on coping strategies.

“It’s free for young people to participate, and I’ve decided on a healthy cooking class, yoga class, pet therapy session, boxing, art therapy and then a celebration dinner to finish it all off,” Ms Layley said.

Ms Layley said her motivation for the workshop was her own experience with mental health.

“I think it was my passion for mental health, it’s such a major issue. People always talk about how we don’t have services, and while that’s true, we need to look at it positively,” she said.

“If I had something like this when I was younger, or even now, it would’ve really helped.”

Ms Layley spent many weeks working hard to advocate for a Headspace in Wallan in 2019 – a youth mental health support service.

For more information, or to register your interest, email Mitchell Youth Services at