‘Advocates and agitators’: Pat McGorry and Grace Tame in conversation for youth mental health

‘Advocates and agitators’: Pat McGorry and Grace Tame in conversation for youth mental health

9 July 2024

Professor Pat McGorry, Grace Tame and Dr Astha Tomar

Two former Australians of the Year – Grace Tame and Orygen Executive Director Professor Patrick McGorry – shared the stage for in-depth conversations about the escalating youth mental health crisis at a Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrist’s (RANZCP) conference focused on support for young people last week. 

As well as a keynote from Prof. McGorry, the pair came together for a panel discussion chaired by RANZCP president-elect Dr Astha Tomar, who is also Director of Clinical Services at Orygen, and began with a discussion of the recently released National Mental Health Commission Report Card for 2023. 

The report showed that national rates of mental ill-health are increasing, with the number of young people reporting a mental health issue in the past 12 months skyrocketing from just over a quarter (26 per cent) to 39 per cent in 2020-2022. For young women, this increase was even larger, rising from 29 per cent in 2007 to 46 per cent in 2020-2022. 

The speakers explored the idea that while Australian society believes in universal health care, it does not currently have the systems in place to effectively treat young people experiencing mental ill-health. Currently, 19 per cent of people are delaying accessing mental health care, up from 12 per cent in 2020-2021. 

Of particular importance during the session was a discussion of the impacts of childhood sexual abuse on mental health, its poor recognition in our systems of care, and the need for both mental health systems and the community to do better in acknowledging and understanding these impacts.  

Grace Tame’s work in building a language for survivors to communicate and ask for help was particularly acknowledged as a step forward in helping clinicians, teachers and the wider community support young people who have experienced abuse.  

Dr Tomar described both as incredible inspirations. 

“You are both taking on big systems head-on, you don’t give up and you do amazing work as advocates and agitators,” Dr Tomar said. 

"May your lights keep shining and may you keep fighting for the change you want to see, and the change we know Australians need.” 

The two-day program also included a keynote from Prof. McGorry on the megatrends impacting youth mental health, and a symposium focused on the unmet needs of young people in healthcare systems and how technology could enhance models of care, featuring Professor Ian Hickie from the University of Sydney and Dr Vilas Sawrika from the University of Edinburgh.  

The final session featured University of NSW's Dr Jackie Curtis and explored the value of peer work in youth mental health, including peer worker perspectives from Rosie Singh on best practice, and ending with a discussion of advanced training in the field.  

  • VIDEO: Hear more from leaders in youth mental at the recent Orygen Symposium  

  • PODCAST: Hear Prof. Pat McGorry discuss the state of the mental health system on ABC Insiders