Students take on mental health challenge

A group of La Trobe University students in Bendigo are taking an innovative approach to tackling the challenges of mental health in young people.

During a five-day intensive, students from a range of disciplines will come together for the ‘Rural Health Innovation Sprint’, bringing diverse perspectives to the issue of how to empower young people to improve mental health.

Lecturer at the La Trobe Rural Health School, Dr Brad Hodge, said the University is working closely with organisations across Bendigo to develop the students’ skills in design thinking, community engagement, team development, communication, and evaluation techniques – while ultimately helping to improve young people’s lives.

“This is the second time we’ve held an Innovation Sprint in Bendigo, and we know how valuable the opportunity is to co-design solutions that are really tailored to the local context. Involving young people in finding solutions to the challenges that affect them is an important way to explore issues and gain new skills and knowledge,” Dr Hodge said.

“Something incredibly powerful happens when you gather a group of people with diverse backgrounds and expertise together, really listen to each other and the community, and work together to address a common challenge.”

Jack Edwards, Student Counsellor from Bendigo TAFE, said that due to COVID-19 lockdowns in recent years, many young people had found it challenging to access the support service and activities they normally would.

“Working with young people, I’ve noticed how much they value face-to-face mental health and wellbeing services – and how many did not engage with support services when everything was online,” Mr Edwards said.

“Now that society has opened back up, we need to focus even more on safe spaces – and events such as the Rural Health Innovation Sprint – to get the conversation going and support our youth to access services and talk about the challenges they face.”

Second year Bachelor of Dental Science student, Cristi Deocampo, said the last few years had been especially challenging for the community, particularly young people.

“We have not had the usual social connections and events, which can take a toll on mental health and well-being,” Ms Deocampo said.

“I’m really excited about being part of the Innovation Sprint and enthusiastic about working with like-minded students and industry leaders to develop something enriching for the Bendigo region.”

The Rural Health Innovation Sprint will run from the 7th to the 11th of November at La Trobe’s Bendigo campus, and include opportunities for students to engage with community and local partner organisations, develop and test prototype solutions and showcase their findings at a major event on Friday night.

Image (left to right): Student Cristi Deocampo, Dr Brad Hodge, Student Counsellor at Bendigo TAFE Jack Edwards

Media enquiries: Anna Knight -, 0481 383 817