Improved mental health support for young people

Pictured above: Belinda Leonard, Felix Sy and Kirsty Simpson.

Young people with lived experience of mental health can look forward to better mental health, physical health and wellbeing outcomes and increased access to appropriate care at Nepean Hospital’s new Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) inpatient unit. 

Delivered under the NSW government’s $700 million Statewide Mental Health Infrastructure Program (SWMHIP), the new CAMHS inpatient unit has been co-designed by consumers, their family, carers and staff, and is set to begin construction this year. 

The CAMHS inpatient unit will be built next to the Mental Health Unit and feature: 

  • 10 single bedrooms with ensuites 

  • A large internal communal area and two outdoor courtyards 

  • Therapy and consultation rooms 

  • Sensory and media spaces plus indoor gym  

Construction is scheduled to get underway the coming weeks. 

20-year-old Lithgow resident Felix Sy, who has been part of the co-design process, says the new unit is going to make a big difference to young people living in the local area. 

“Throughout high school I experienced depression and anxiety to the point where I was admitted to hospital at Nepean. Having that experience in the hospital system inspired me to put my hand up and contribute to making sure this new facility is designed specifically for young people. 

“The region is lacking this kind of infrastructure, with many patients having to travel up to two hours one way to receive treatment, which is not ideal. It can also be pretty uncomfortable receiving treatment in a space where there are adults around. Young people and adults have very different needs and experiences. 

“I think the facility is going to make a difference because so much thought has been put into its design from people with lived experience of mental health,” says Felix.  

“I was able to contribute to ensure the facility is a welcoming and safe place for the LGBTQI community. It’s a rewarding feeling knowing I’ve been able to use my experiences to make a genuine difference for young people in the future.” 

Chairperson of the NBMLHD Mental Health Consumer and Carer Council, Kirsty Simpson also played a crucial role in the design of the CAMHS Inpatient Unit.  

“It was fantastic to be part of the collaborative co-design between consumers, carers and staff. We were also involved in the creation of the model of care for the unit, including regular art, music, and pet therapy, and having peer workers available to talk to the patients throughout the week.” 

Kirsty adds the peer workers – workers with lived experience of mental health issues – are an invaluable addition to the unit. 

“Peer workers can provide the young patients with hope and assist with advocating for them if they are not confident to speak for themselves,” she said.  

“There is also a learning centre, so adolescents still attending school have the opportunity to continue schoolwork while staying on the unit. 

“The inpatient unit is truly addressing a service gap in the Penrith region to provide appropriate care and meet future demand in the area.”

Penrith resident and mother of a child with lived experience of youth mental health experience, Belinda Leonard says she is excited that Nepean Hospital will soon have a dedicated adolescent mental health unit that will have a positive impact on generations to come. 

“A day doesn’t go by without hearing about a young person in our region in crisis. Anything that we can do as a community to support kids to address mental health challenges is a worthwhile investment,” she said. 

“Having a dedicated mental health service at Nepean Hospital means children, young people and their families will have access to appropriate services in a space designed for them, rather than being co-located with adults or in a clinical setting. It will also enable the development of community connection and referral pathways to ensure the success of inpatient treatment.” 

Belinda notes that the needs of young people in the 12 – 17-year-old age group are unique.  

“It’s fantastic that the new CAMHS is designed for them, so it is a comfortable and safe environment,” she said. “Knowing there is a local service closer to home if acute intervention is required, provides significant comfort to me as a parent of a child facing mental health challenges.”