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Help Available – Top Sydney mental health clinic prepares for adolescent patient increase throughout the Christmas and New Year period.

One of Sydney's leading clinics for youth anxiety will remain open throughout the Christmas and New Year period, with their recently expanded adolescent unit ready to cater for those needing support.

The Hills Clinic in Kellyville – an 85 bed facility with a specially designed 27 beds unit for 16 to 25 year olds - runs a year-round program to help young adults dealing with mental health illness including anxiety and addiction. The Clinic has recently doubled its capacity in its youth ward from 13 to 27 beds to keep pace with demand.

The Hills Clinic Specialist Psychiatrist Dr Dr Nishant Wankhede says holidays and ‘end-of-year’ pressure can induce symptoms of anxiety and depression in teens who have no history of mental illness.

“Adolescence is a period of great change and entails a range of physical, emotional and academic challenges. It’s a time when young people are establishing their identities, seeking independence, and facing pressures from a range of environments. It is also the peak age of onset for mental health disorders.”

“I encourage young people who are struggling with anxiety, depression or addiction to reach out to someone and seek help,” said Dr Wankhede.

Research has found that half of all lifetime mental health disorders emerge by age 14 and three quarters by age 24. Mental health disorders experienced in adolescence have a range of detrimental effects on an individual’s wellbeing, development and functioning, both in the short and long term. Including reduced academic achievement, poor social functioning, unemployment and substance abuse. Mental health disorders also put individuals at greater risk of intentional self-harm and suicide.

The Hills Clinic Director of Nursing and CEO Jacki Maher said while the Christmas and New Year Period can be a source of anxiety and stress for many adolescents, the additional challenges of 2020 will mean that some young adults will need to seek professional support – and the sooner the better.

“Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing indicates that over one in four young Australians are at risk of serious mental illness and young adults are reluctant to seek help and more likely to seek help from the internet. This suggests that stigma and fear of being judged continue to inhibit help-seeking,” said Ms Maher.

The Young Adult program at The Hills Clinic offers both in-patient and day patient programs to address mood, anxiety and addiction issues in a safe, respectful and secure environment.

Ms Maher says most young people complete a three week program as an in-patient at the clinic, which can be continued as out-patient through The Hills Clinic day program, which is tailored to individual’s requirements.

"It all starts with a young person being brave enough to speak up, parents making themselves available for these conversations, and being tuned in to any changes in behaviour, such as becoming withdrawn or needing constant reassurance.

"Once they join us at The Hills, there is a major focus on strengthening communication between students and their families, and working directly with parents as part of our program to equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to help their child navigate stress and anxiety in a healthy way."

She says The Hills Clinic uses a combination of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), group therapy and hands-on activities to help break the barriers of anxiety.

"We've recently added Equine Therapy to our program which has been extremely popular, with horses brought to the clinic each week. We also do martial arts, tai chi and horticulture, with our young people helping to look after a living green wall in the clinic," she said.

"These activities, combined with group therapy, really helps our young people to connect with one another and realise they are not alone in whatever they may be dealing with.

"We run group and individual therapy sessions for both young adults and their parents, so it's a complete end to end program where everyone walks away with support from other people in the same situation and a better understanding of how they can help themselves to deal with anxiety in future."

“If you or a loved one need some mental health support, the Christmas holidays can be a great time to seek that help without interfering with school or university.”

In addition, The Hills Clinic offers two main treatment streams for our adult patients based on their over-arching presenting problem. These are our Manoeuvres (Mood) and Phoenix (Addiction) programs.

Both programs have their foundations in a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) approach whereby an individual’s cognitions, emotions and behaviours are linked in a continuous feedback loop.

Our Addiction program incorporates components of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) in order to better manage impulsivity, regulate emotions and improve and heal relationships.

Our Mood program also utilises DBT, similar to Addictions but with a focus on tolerating distress and reducing self-injurious behaviours as well as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) to build psychological flexibility.

In addition, we offer a holistic approach to therapy and recovery in both programs. We offer Horticulture, Art therapy, Tai Chi, Self-care focus groups and Mindfulness groups.

The Hills Clinic has contract arrangements with all private health funds, and also accept DVA and Work Cover patients. For patients that do not have private health insurance we offer fees for services arrangements. A referral for admission is required.

For more information about The Hills Clinic and Christmas admissions, please visit www.thehillsclinic.com.au