Heather* (17) remembers the day her mum gave her an ultimatum: Stop using substances or leave the family home.

Known by her friends and family as a bright and outgoing young adult, Heather struggled with depression behind the scenes. At her lowest points, Heather would resort to self-harm.

Heather’s first encounter with illicit substances started at the young age of 12 as a convenient way to cope with feelings of depression. Like any harmful addiction, however, her dependence worsened over the years and so did her mental health.

Did you know? In our 23rd Annual Youth Survey, 30% of young people listed mental health as one of the most important issues in Australia and 32% of young people were personally ‘extremely’ or ‘very concerned’ about mental health.

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Extreme mood swings spiraled into aggression towards others and Heather’s negativity further deteriorated her relationship with her family. Her anger intensified rapidly over minor issues, and she found it difficult to soothe her emotions without substances.

For the sake of her siblings, Heather’s mother told her daughter to leave home if she continued using substances.

It was the final push Heather needed to confront how bad things had turned. When Heather heard about Mission Australia’s Drug and Alcohol Youth Service (DAYS), she knew it was the only way to recover and begin repairing her relationships.

DAYS is a service for young people whose drug use is significantly affecting their lives. Located in East Perth, the service works in partnership with Next Step Community Alcohol and Drug Service to provide young people aged 12 to 21 years with a safe and supported environment to manage their withdrawal from alcohol and other drugs.

During her first meeting with a DAYS case worker, Heather emphasised her goal for rehabilitation was to repair her relationship with her family.

At the DAYS residential rehabilitation service, Heather had access to services that would help her on her journey.

She felt secure and emotionally safe to express her frustrations and explore new strategies to help her regulate her emotions without substances.

It was emotionally taxing but Heather persevered.

With care and support from case workers and mental health specialists, Heather was able to address past trauma and substance use. New techniques such as mindfulness and grounding activities helped her process her emotions in a healthy way and stabilise her mental health.

Heather was proud of her progress and for the first time, she felt confident about her ability to navigate difficult emotions without substances.

The DAYS team connected Heather with employment and education services to set her up for an independent future and assisted in securing a safe and secure home for Heather.

With newfound confidence and mindfulness strategies, Heather also began the process of reconnecting with her family. No longer reliant on harmful substances, Heather continues to work towards restoring trust and healing those relationships.

Recently, Heather celebrated her 18th birthday with a family dinner. Only a few months ago, Heather would not have believed it was possible.

Thank you for helping young people like Heather on their journey of recovery.

*Names and images have been changed to protect the identities of the people we helped

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