Skip to main content

Innovation required to meet children’s mental health needs

Young people’s high usage of technology and social media should be better harnessed to improve mental health service delivery across WA, according to the Commissioner for Children and Young People Colin Pettit.

Mr Pettit is promoting a focus on this important area and has appointed e-mental health researcher and advocate Professor Jane Burns as his 2016-17 Thinker in Residence.

“Professor Burns has undertaken extensive research on new and emerging technologies and how they can be used to improve mental health service delivery and strengthen young people’s online resilience,” Mr Pettit.

“Professor Burns will work with government and non-government agencies to explore how her research could be applied here in WA, particularly to overcome the challenges we face in delivering effective mental health services to children and young people across our vast state,.

“The Thinker program includes a parents’ seminar where Professor Burns will outline how children and young people can be supported to develop the skills to safely navigate their online environments and find the information and networks they need for positive mental health.”

Mr Pettit said the appointment of Professor Burns as the fourth Thinker in Residence continues his office’s focus on identifying the best available evidence and research when exploring responses to issues affecting WA children and young people.

“While some progress has been made in recent years, there is much work to be done to provide comprehensive support for children and young people’s mental health,” Mr Pettit said.

“Our 2015 report on the status of the State’s mental health services for children and young people, Our Children Can’t Wait, identified ongoing significant gaps in services, particularly in regional areas of the state.

“One of the 12 recommendations made in this report was for more innovative service delivery models including wider and better use of emerging technologies, and this Thinker in Residence program aims to identify practical strategies that will work in WA.

“There are some effective online mental health services and supports currently available, however Professor Burns work has identified other powerful opportunities that tie in with the way young people use these mediums every day. 

“Both government and non-government agencies have responded very positively to the opportunity to work with Professor Burns and I am very hopeful of what can be achieved from our 2016-17 Thinker in Residence program.”

The Commissioner thanked the 2016-17 Thinker in Residence partner agencies – Rio Tinto; Edith Cowan University; Telethon Kids Institute; Department for Child Protection and Family Support; Mental Health Commission, Child and Adolescent Health Service; Disability Services Commission; Department of Education; Meerilinga and the Youth Affairs Council of WA.

The 2016-17 Thinker in Residence will be held over two separate weeks

  • 24 to 28 October 2016 (Children’s Week)
  • 13 to 16 March 2017.

Parents seminar

Professor Burns will deliver a seminar for parents on Monday 24 October 2016, at Churchlands Senior High School.

Supporting children and young people to develop the skills and understanding to safely navigate their online environments and find the information and networks they need can provide significant benefits to their mental health and wellbeing.

This seminar will present ways parents can support children and young people in building their digital resilience and to stay safe online.

Recognising that the Internet is a space where young people generally enjoy spending their time, Professor Burns’ research brings young people together with researchers and practitioners to explore how technology can be used to improve mental health and wellbeing for young people.

This practical seminar will also include a presentation from Professor Donna Cross from Telethon Kids Institute who has undertaken world-leading research on bullying and safe online practices for young people.

Bookings are essential – visit