Beyond the binary: Youth access to mental health services in rural and regional New South Wales, Australia

Jessica Houston

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This project aimed to amend the paucity of knowledge about how young people in regional and rural New South Wales experience mental healthcare and illustrate an alternative way of researching this. The dissertation offers a unique contribution towards a fuller understanding of young people and their relationship to both mental health and rural and regional life. Understanding the insights and perceptions of these young people will, in turn, assist policy makers, health planners and managers, clinicians and educators in knowing how to respond to people with mental health concerns and in determining what educational and other interventions should be taken to strengthen this aspect of practice. This arts-based qualitative project draws from the methodology of ‘non-binary thinking,’ ‘material thinking’ and filmmaking. Filmmaking is considered to connect ‘core definitions of the self to society, culture and history’. Two semi-structured interviews were conducted with young people from rural and regional New South Wales, Australia. After the interviews, I, the researcher, made six short films in response to my conversations with the participants as a way of generating and expanding ideas about young people and their relationship to mental health, regionality and rurality within New South Wales. An ‘untangling’ of the collected materials (transcripts, research journal notes and film) occurred in a way that is reminiscent of Carter: ‘a double movement of decontextualisation and of recontextualisation, in which new families of association and structures of meaning are established.’ To generate new ways of thinking, filmmaking, non-binary thinking and also metaphor were used to explore how young people feel about accessing mental health services or care in a rural or regional setting. A process of dismantling and re-assembling was used to facilitate the emergence of new associations and ‘knowing’ about young people in regional and rural New South Wales and how they experience mental healthcare. Through the six short films, we meet six young people: Morgan, Heather, Will, Jeremy, Ruby and Jack. Through these films emerged insights into their realities as young people grappling with their temporality and stereotypes afforded them, their lived experiences of access and service usage, regional and rural visibility, adolescent grief, resilience, life transitions and personal agency. Here are aspirations of regional and rural youth culture building and the changed possibilities of identity, culture, and mental health service access that appear when the binary and, or standard models of care is no longer the referent or the privileged example of youth mental health access. The application of non-binary thinking is used to try to unsettle the powerful norms that support metro-centric privilege. Further inquiry into regional and rural youth mental health is crucial here and would be a valuable topic for future research.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Rae, John, Principal Supervisor
  • Crockett, Judith, Co-Supervisor
  • Green, Bill, Co-Supervisor
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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