Jess connects with a world she never knew

04/08/2016 Jess

As teenagers we all go through dark times. Usually we have friends to lean on and help us through.

But for those who don’t, the effects can be devastating.

Jess Cochran struggled with mental health issues and was diagnosed with anorexia at the age of 12. No one understood what she was dealing with, leaving her isolated and ostracised.

“It was hard… I felt left out so I kept to myself,” said Jess.

“I didn’t get the social experiences that I wanted for myself.”

At the age of 16 it all came to a head. Jess was hospitalised and missed an entire year of school. Feeling ever more alone, things seemed to be going from bad to worse.

That’s when she was introduced to YMCA Youth Parliament.

An initiative aimed at giving young people a voice in politics, Jess’ school registered a group to participate. Only just coming out of hospital she was chosen to be the team leader.

“We got to develop policy on school curriculum, and discuss providing more support for the common problems teenagers face,” said Jess.

“I didn’t realise how much it would mean to me to have my voice heard.”

For the first time, Jess was surrounded by friends and people who valued her. She was part of something.

“I felt a real difference when I was with everyone… I felt safe amongst my peers and could have real discussions.”

Now ten years on, Jess has made it her mission to ensure more people understand the effects of mental health issues on young people’s lives. She credits the YMCA for starting her journey.

“Before the Y came into my life, I was shy, anxious, and was in a bad place,” she said.

“Today, I wouldn’t be nearly as confident if it wasn’t for the YMCA Youth Parliament program. It really changed things for me.”

This Father’s Day, you can help support young people just like Jess by raising funds for programs and services that minimise the toll of mental health issues in young people.

Register today and give young people in need a chance at health and happiness.

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