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  • Why teenagers need access to allied health services

    Author: Nicole Madigan

Teenagers would benefit from proactive access to allied health professionals during their school years, says adolescent psychologist Angela Karanja.

“At this age, a lot of changes are happening in young people and especially in teenage years.

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“As their brain undergoes dramatic changes, their ability to reason and rationalise is hampered and they are so emotional and erratic.

“Having a psychologist or another well informed and patient allied health practitioner and/or person who can empathise and explain what’s happening within the teenager, can be very reassuring.

“This compassionate gesture can make the difference between a kid blowing up and breaking or adopting and maintain a cruise control mode.”


Frontline Health Brisbane
Frontline Health Brisbane
Senior Hospital Speech Pathologist - Paediatrics
Careers Connections International

With adolescents spending up to nine hours per day in and around school, its environment can play a big impact towards their mental health and development.

“So, it’s very important to help young people have positive experiences.

“School is where young people do life on a daily basis.

“It is my utmost believe and hope that these services are available not on a reactive basis after occurrences and incidents, but as proactive interventions.

“Take for example mentoring, coaching and drama, music therapy. These should not be after the kids’ have been identified as suffering, but as part of the integral part of the education system.

“Allied services, especially those supporting mental wellness should be an integrated everyday service.”

Ms Karanja believes teachers too can play an allied health role to support the professionals that children access.

“Teachers who are true educators are easily able to deal with these difficulties.

“They give time to the kids. They discuss with kids and their parents, suitable interventions. They refer more difficult cases to other allied health workers or even general practitioners if needed.”

According to research, half of all mental health problems are determined by age 14, and three quarters by age 24.

“When issues such as personal identify crises, relationship challenges, sexuality, insecurities about performance and looks and other mental struggles and trauma are not addressed, then teens are not helped to process these.

“Then unfortunately their health and wellness go downhill which then negatively impacts their personal, social, and academic prospects.”

According to Ms Karanja, the current education system does not provide enough access to allied health professionals.

“I would like allied health normalised and accepted in schools all over the world and this to be a proactive part of the education system.

“Many parents and teachers that I work with are surprised by who and how compassionate they become when they understand how the teenagers brain changes affect their thinking, feelings, and behaviour.

“When they understand this, they are able to handle young people in a totally different way. A way that encourages, emphasises, and entails connection first before correction.”

Young people’s executive function part of the brain, or the prefrontal lobe, is not fully developed, as we know in the neuroscience of the adolescent brain , a period that can last until they are 25 years old.

“Young people struggle with being rational and due to this they exhibit behavioural and learning issues that can be challenging for those looking after them.

“Young people at this age are experiencing personal identity crises, relationship, sexuality, peak performance challenges and other mental struggles.

“We also have young people who have been through adverse events and are therefore traumatised.”

According to Ms Karanja, increased access to allied health services for young people may prevent the future need for medical services.

“There is a place for medical or pharmacological services of course, but I believe allied health services should be explored first.

“Even when the medical route is deemed to be the right intervention, they should work coherently in conjunction with allied health services.

“Professionals and others working with young people need to understand the teenagers’ brain because with this understanding comes deep compassion.

“Teachers and parents then understand that teenagers are not out to get them, but are truly going through a turbulent time and with good support they come out on the other end unscathed,
“For the sake of our young people’s health and wellness now and in the future let’s be a proactive society.”


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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications ( and a children's author.