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 murraybridge@centacare.org.au