Primary school student Chloe* believes her tablet is contaminated with bad luck, so she has stopped taking it to class. She worries that disaster will befall her family and friends if she uses the device. Chloe fell behind with her studies last term and her parents worry how she will cope this year. The 13-year-old is among an increasing number of young people presenting to Centacare’s PACE service for anxiety-related mental health challenges.

Over the past seven months, demand for support has trebled as clients aged up to 16 years, and/or parents of young children seek help.

Mental Health Peer Worker Alex Barr said obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) was the leading concern, and was most likely triggered by COVID-19.

“As soon as COVID-19 restrictions started to ease, we were flooded with calls,’’ said Alex, who has supported clients as young as 8 in the past year.

“Pre-COVID, OCD was there but not to the extent we’re seeing it now.

“It might be some clients had a predisposition to OCD and because it’s been such a strange and stressful time with new school, hygiene and social norms, it’s been brought on sooner.’’

The indicators of OCD are obsessions – unwanted and intrusive ideas, thoughts, images or urges – and compulsions or rituals, which the person feels they must perform repeatedly in response to their obsessions.

Alex said contamination, fear of getting sick, magical thinking and harm were the most prevalent themes experienced by PACE clients.

In most cases, this was putting their schooling at risk.

“Often they are constantly late to school, or they don’t attend at all, due to extensive rituals before leaving the house,’’ she said.

“Some young people are not able to eat at school or in public, which is causing them social and health concerns.

“Others come to us with severe skin conditions caused by contamination OCD symptoms, such as repeatedly washing their hands.’’

In recent months, Alex has supported an older teen who worries he will hit someone in his car and  repeatedly drives laps of the block to check, while a 14-year- old is fearful of using technology.

“He wouldn’t touch the phone to speak to us or use the laptop to send an email, which made it difficult to provide him with support remotely during lockdown,’’ Alex said.

PACE expects demand for support will keep rising, especially from parents, as the new school year, combined with a metropolitan-wide lack of specialist support for OCD, exacerbates students’ stressors.

“OCD doesn’t follow logic so it can be particularly hard for parents to understand it,’’ Alex said.

“Their parenting instinct is to help when their child is hurting, so often they start to enable their behaviours. They might start cleaning things for them, or buying new clothes if their child says their wardrobe is contaminated, or they might be too strict.

“By enabling behaviours, they are prolonging the recovery process. That can be the hardest thing for parents to understand because, emotionally, it’s very difficult to say no to a child in distress.’’

PACE offers one-on-one support for parents and caregivers of children with OCD or who are struggling with repetitive behaviours.

In addition, young people aged 16 or over can attend HOPE, the only peer-led support group in Adelaide, run by PACE each fortnight from Payneham Community Centre.

*For more information about PACE supports and the HOPE group, please phone 8303 6660 or email



Centacare is playing a key role nurturing the mental health of young people living in rural South Australia. Through the Supporting Children & Youth (SCY) program, we work with families to build their resilience and overcome challenges in their lives.   


Every week, Centacare’s Supporting Children & Youth  team travels hundreds of kilometres to bring sunshine to the bush.

An early intervention mental health outreach service operating across the Murray, Mid Murray, Coorong and Mallee regions, SCY supports children and young people who are showing early signs, or are at risk, of mental illness.

For many families, the free Murray Bridge-based service is their only support.

From Morgan to Pinnaroo, Mount Pleasant and Tintinara, SCY engages children aged 0 to 18 years to improve their wellbeing and overcome challenges.

These include family breakdown, grief and loss, bullying, loneliness, peer pressure, low self-esteem and self-labelling.

“Being the voice for a child is very rewarding as quite often their voice will go unheard,” says Morgan, a Family Practitioner who joined SCY in 2019.

“Engaging and supporting young people to reach their full potential by overcoming short-term anxiety, depression or grief and loss is truly powerful.’’

Through one-on-one and group support at schools, and onsite at Centacare in Murray Bridge, SCY provides intensive long-term early intervention, short-term supports, and opportunities for young people to reconnect to community through place-based activities.

Manager Mark Draper says service referrals continue to grow, highlighting the need for other non-clinical services in the region. Typically, referrals come from schools, service providers and SAPOL. Some young people self-refer.

In the wake of COVID-19, the team has increased its digital capacity to provide on-the-spot paperless support to families to help them overcome the challenges of limited online access and resources.

“Parents and schools are so appreciative of SCY’s support because we will come to them,’’ says Naomi, Family Practitioner.

“When you live in a remote location, distance is a huge barrier to accessing supports for your children if that requires taking them out of school to make the four-hour round trip.’’

Research shows social isolation can exacerbate life stressors in vulnerable families, with the rate of suicide in rural Australia about 40 per cent higher than in major cities. Drug and alcohol use and smoking is also more prevalent.

SCY Family Practitioner Alison feels privileged to work with young people as they navigate childhood and adolescence.

“Just saying to a child ‘buddy, I believe in you’ can be powerful for them and for their parents,’’ she says.

“Some young people have challenging behaviours but every young person we work with is awesome. If they can see this and believe in themselves, and understand how to react in certain situations, a lot of positive change can happen.

“When you support a young person around their unmet needs or goals, they look at you with this beam – it’s very rewarding.’’

For more information about SCY, please phone Centacare Murray Bridge 8215 6320 or email







Centacare played a lead role in an Australia-wide conversation around NDIS and mental health last week.

Broadcast from Adelaide, the virtual Community Mental Health Australia (CMHA) National NDIS & Mental Health Conference had a future focus and looked at key learnings, lived experience, innovation, and the relationship between human rights and mental health recovery.

NDIS Support Coordination Manager Natalie Tucker led a workshop exploring how the transition to the NDIS has worked for and against participants with psychosocial disability.

Research shows the mental health of a person fundamentally impacts and shapes their NDIS experience.

“We spoke about the challenges faced within the support coordinator role when dealing with complex psychosocial participants, and the vicarious impact this can have on staff,’’ Nat said.

“We discussed the role block-funded programs and mainstream services play in a participant’s life once they are on the scheme, and the gaps we see in the system.

“Lastly, we spoke about our desire to have recovery frameworks built into the scheme for those with a primary psychosocial disability, and our hopes for the integration of recovery coaches within the NDIS space.’’

Centacare NDIS Support Coordination works with more than 400 clients across three sites – Adelaide, Davoren Park, and Murray Bridge.

Support coordinators help individuals and their families find the services and supports they need to get the most out of their NDIS plan and achieve their goals.

As demand for support coordination has increased, so too has the need for flexible and responsive services. Finding clients what they need quickly, and keeping them connected to those supports, is crucial.


Kylie Degenhardt has heard it all.

As a fair skin Palawa woman, the Youth Support Worker has had her identity questioned, been mocked for being Aboriginal and told she doesn’t belong.

“People say things like `how Aboriginal are you?’, like I need to prove it,’’ Kylie says.

“There’s still that mentality if you don’t fit the usual picture of what an Aboriginal person is meant to look like. The racism and stereotypes, they never go away.’’

The conversations Kylie’s skin colour provoke are a constant reminder of the challenges around identity and acceptance that endure today for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The 43-year-old is passionate about reversing this `cultural disconnect’, born from past government policies and felt so painfully by her grandfather Robert, a member of the Stolen Generations.

“He didn’t see his sister until he was 60 odd years old and then they both passed away six months later – after a lifetime without each other,’’ Kylie says.

“It’s that disconnection: What he was made to think about his mum; what he was made to think about his culture; how policy and thinking turned our people against themselves.’’

In her role at headspace Port Adelaide, Kylie helps young people to embrace their heritage by connecting them to community and other supports for challenges such as depression and anxiety.

In addition, she teaches community service professionals to view mental health through a cultural lens, as one of a handful of facilitators in the state delivering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Mental Health First Aid training.

Participants learn how to assist an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander adult who may be experiencing a mental health problem until appropriate professional help is received or the crisis resolves.

“Every day I see the trauma but I also see the resilience in people,’’ Kylie says.

“The younger generations especially are using their voice positively. Yes, they are angry, but they are also getting their message of survival out there: that we are still here, thriving and surviving!

“They are proud and they’re speaking up.’’

What is Plan Management?

Plan Management is support to manage the funding in your NDIS plan. Having your funds plan managed means that you have the flexibility to use both registered and unregistered providers, without having to deal with all the claiming and processing of invoices.

Our key roles include:

  • Processing provider invoices
  • Lodging claims through the NDIS portal
  • Resolving any queries with providers on your behalf
  • Helping you to manage your NDIS funding

How can I have plan management?

At your planning meeting you can tell the NDIS Planner that you would like a plan manager to support you.

The NDIS will include funding in your plan to pay for your plan manager. This is separate from your other services and supports in your budget and falls under the support category “Improved Life Choices.”

By seeking Plan Management support, your other support funds are not reduced – it is provided on top of your other funding requirements.

Why Centacare?

At Centacare, we take a personal approach with our NDIS Plan Management services. Once you are engaged with us, you will be assigned one of our Plan management officers as your primary contact, with the knowledge that there is a full team in the background to assist at any time. We have offices located in Adelaide Metro and in the Northern Suburbs for those who want to interact with a real person.

Centacare uses a program called Careview, which has a corresponding app called “Careview Advantage”. The programs allow you to:

  • Access real-time budget balances for each of your support categories
  • Approve your provider invoices
  • View a monthly summary of your spending via either the app or a monthly statement sent via email/post (your preference)

A primary focus for any plan manager is to ensure that you get the most out of your funds by effectively managing the budget. At Centacare, we start off each new support plan with a discussion about how you want to spend the funding, so that we can help you work out a budget for each of your supports – making sure there are no financial surprises at the end.

If you are interested in engaging Centacare for your plan management needs, you can either contact us on 08 8228 8940 to speak with one of our experienced team members, or register your interest online below.


Register your interest online

Traumatic events in a person’s life can put them on a multi-directional path to homelessness. Understanding the impact of childhood trauma is driving Centacare’s support of vulnerable young people in the north.


It is easy to make assumptions about people living homeless: they’re tearaways, lazy, they should just get a job…

But it is the invisible pain cloaking their plight that’s guiding Centacare’s trauma informed care of young people living homeless in the north and Barossa Valley.

“I don’t think most people recognise the extent of how trauma effects people’s lives and their core,’’ says Megan Welsh, Executive Manager, Youth and Community Support Services.

“At the heart of their troubles is often years of immense sadness that’s hard to fathom when they’re still so young.

“Rather than punish and entrench that trauma, we try to repair and resolve it, and that in itself is quite complex because everybody’s experiences are different.’’

This is requiring a greater understanding of the challenges that precipitate homelessness, how adolescents act out as a result of experiencing childhood trauma, and the impact this has on the way Centacare supports them.

In response, the Outer North Youth Homelessness Service (ONYHS) has adopted a trauma-informed approach to increase our capacity to support vulnerable young people beyond therapeutic and other traditional interventions.

The focus is as much on youth case workers as it is on those at risk.

“You hear a lot of stories, you feel a lot of pain and see a lot of distress,’’ says Tina Breen (pictured), Senior Social Worker. “That can sneak up on you.’’

Reflective practice and supervision is used to encourage staff self-care, and their work is guided by trauma informed policies and procedures.

A 2015 Pegasus Economics report shows unresolved trauma, and its long-term impact on an adult’s wellbeing, costs the nation about $7.8 billion each year.

In 15/16, the ONYHS supported 549 people (348 females and 201 males). Of these, 281 were homeless at intake, 218 were experiencing mental health issues and 57 were fleeing family or domestic violence.

“Most of the young people we see present with complex trauma: repeated episodes of abuse and neglect as a child is common,’’ Tina says.

“Developmental trauma linked to poor attachment and neglect is compounded by other risk factors, such as domestic violence, substance abuse and family breakdown, putting them on a multi-directional path to homelessness.

“As a result, they have less capacity to function so they might self-medicate or end up being the victim of further abuse, such as rape, or put themselves in violent situations because they don’t have the ability to act and respond and make decisions like everybody else.’’

Embedding a deeper understanding of trauma across the ONYHS is helping staff predict and more thoughtfully respond to young people’s reactions to some supportive interventions.

For example, a teenager’s refusal to eat may be due to deprivation or denial of food as a child.

“We might think we’re helping offering them a piece of toast if they’re feeling unwell, but what they see in that is a very scary, threatening act that makes them feel highly vulnerable,’’ Tina says.

Over recent months, the ONYHS has adopted a trauma informed approach to its psychosocial assessment at intake to avoid young people reliving painful events in their past.

In addition, to provide consistent support, limit disruption and foster stability, one youth case worker now works during the day at Carlow Place, Monday to Friday.

“Taking responsibility for understanding how trauma impacts their past allows us to make more informed responses in the support we provide to each young person,’’ Tina says.

*This week we are marking Homelessness Week (August 7-13). The national campaign aims to raise awareness of the experiences and challenges faced by people living out of home. The theme of this year’s week is ‘Action and Innovation‘ and we will be highlighting some of the ways we are supporting young people to stay safe, remain connected with their communities, and build their independence. Centacare provides specialist youth homelessness services, and accommodation support for women and children experiencing domestic violence, in regional and metropolitan South Australia.

#HW2017 #endhomelessness and #innovationinhomelessness





New Netflix feature film To The Bone premieres today amid concern it glamorises anorexia nervosa.

At Centacare, we are mindful this may act as a trigger for vulnerable young people living with, or at risk of, an eating disorder.

However, we acknowledge it also may reduce stigma and raise awareness of eating disorders, and the importance of seeking help.

Our friends at headspace and the Butterfly Foundation have issued some useful resources to support people who may find the film’s content distressing, and for parents who are concerned about their children.

Centacare’s PACE service is also here to help.

Through our peer workers who have a lived experience of eating disorders, we offer one-on-one, group and referral support.

PACE Manager Nigel Wyatt is encouraging parents to engage in conversation with young people around the film which follows the journey of a 20-year-old woman living with anorexia.

To The Bone is based on writer and director Marti Noxon’s personal struggle with eating disorders.

Noxon has said she hopes the film will start conversation around an issue that is too often clouded by secrecy and misconception.

“One way or another, it is going to bring to the forefront of people’s thinking a significant and very dangerous issue,’’ PACE Manager Nigel Wyatt said.

“We hope it will help to reduce stigma and promote an attitude of seeking help but are mindful people living with an eating disorder may struggle to view the content objectively.

“Eating disorders are quite often incredibly competitive illnesses and comparison to others can be a problem.

“We encourage people and families living with some of the complexities raised in the film to seek support.’’

For more information about the services we offer to support people living with an eating disorder, please phone our PACE team on 8159 1400.

headspace Woodville is excited to announce it is relocating to Port Adelaide.

“Moving the centre to Port Adelaide will provide access to youth-friendly mental health services to young people who may not have been able previously visit us,” said Stacey Roy, Centre Manager, headspace Woodville.

“We look forward to providing a safe and welcoming space where young people, their families and friends, can come and seek help on mental health, physical health, alcohol and drugs and work and study.”

The new headspace Port Adelaide centre will be located at 78-80 St Vincent Street, Port Adelaide, and will open on Monday 27 February. headspace Woodville will remain open until Wednesday 22 February.

If you need to speak to someone during the closure of the centre, please contact eheadspace on 1800 650 890 or online at

For further information phone Stacey Roy 08-8243 7900 or email Follow headspace on Facebook at 

*Further information on headspace Port Adelaide official launch event will be distributed at a later date.



IT’S the silent plea for help cried by young people through cuts and bruises every day.

“At least half of the men and women we see at Carlow Place self-harm in some form,’’ says Tracy Ingram, Manager of Centacare’s Outer North Youth Homelessness Service (ONYHS).

“They think it’s normal behaviour, especially girls aged 16 and up.

“ For them it’s just part of growing up but it can become quite emotionally crippling.’’

Tracy says the public taboo and stigma surrounding self-harm is inflamed by a lack of understanding in the community, schools and some emergency departments.

The restructure of mental health services across the state for young people aged 16 or under has also created some confusion about how to access support.

“We’re stepping up to fill that gap by upskilling ourselves around self-harm so we are in the best position to support these young people who are highly vulnerable with complex needs,’’ Tracy says.

“Wards don’t push it away, but they don’t always see self-harm as a serious issue.

“If the young person can talk about tomorrow and the next day, and they are not going to jump in front of a train, they’re sent home and go back to being vulnerable – usually on their own in the middle of the night. It exacerbates the situation.’’

Cutting is the most common form of self-harm. It also presents through piercings, self-tattoos and risk-taking behaviour.

A 2010 survey of 12,000 Australians published in the Medical Journal of Australia last month found nearly one quarter of young women and a fifth of young men aged 20 to 24 years have self-harmed.

Of the 301 young people supported by Centacare’s ONYHS from July to December last year, 201 were aged 18-24 years, 114 were experiencing mental health issues, 34 were victims of domestic or family violence and 139 were homeless.

“Usually everything is so overwhelming for them internally they will do something externally to release that pain,’’ Tracy says.

At Carlow Place, which supports young people aged 15-18 who are homeless, Centacare staff remove sharps and use art therapy and other activities to distract young people at risk.

Where necessary, a safety plan is also put in place in conjunction with Child Adolescent Mental Health Services.

Tracy is calling on schools to broaden their bullying prevention strategies which primarily focus on violence at the expense of other triggers of poor mental health.

“Teachers will sometimes dismiss milder forms of self-harm and even label it as disruptive behaviour,’’ she says.

“As a sector, we need to collaborate with schools to change their perception of mental health so teachers recognise early when a student isn’t coping, and is in distress, due to challenges outside the classroom.’’

* Youth homelessness is being highlighted this week as part of a national campaign to raise awareness and support for young people who experience or are at risk of homelessness.

Today we mark  Youth Homelessness Matters Day, a call to everyone to take action in publicly stating that youth homelessness matters and should be prevented.





Centacare is bringing the play, Out of the Blue, to town for a regional tour of South Australia next month.

Out of the Blue tells the story of a group of men who get together at the local footy club to pay tribute to a mate they have lost to suicide.

Reflecting the harshness of life in the bush, the story is relevant to men everywhere – and their partners.

Written by Stig Wemyss, the production is the work of widely-acclaimed HealthPlay, set up by Alan Hopgood AM more than 20 years ago to bring challenging health issues to the public through comedy and drama.

Out of the Blue is being presented as part of Centacare’s Drought Assistance Program which provides mental health and counselling support to drought-affected communities.

The play is suitable for adults, and children aged 15 years and over. A crèche will be provided at each venue.

The tour dates are:

  • Sunday, April 3

Tailem Bend Town Hall, Railway Tce, Tailem Bend.

Free sausage sizzle at 5.30pm

Performance at 6pm


  • Monday, April 4

Meningie Area School Hall, 1 North Tce, Meningie

Free sausage sizzle at 6.30pm

Performance at 7pm


  • Tuesday April 5

Tintinara Soldiers’ Memorial Hall, Becker Tce, Tintinara

Free sausage sizzle at 5pm

Performance at 5.30pm


  • Wednesday, April 6

Meadows Memorial Hall, Mawson Rd, Meadows

Free sausage sizzle at 6.30pm
Performance at 7pm


  • Thursday, April 7

Mt Barker Town Hall, Stephen St, Mt Barker

Free light lunch from 12pm



Meeting the Challenge

Centacare Catholic Family Services is a Catholic welfare organisation delivering a range of services across the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide.

Client Services

45 Wakefield Street Adelaide SA 5000
T 08 8215 6700

Opening Hours

Monday – Tuesday | 9am – 5pm
Wednesday – Thursday | 9am – 9pm
Friday | 9am – 5pm

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