Livewire – changing lives

Starlight’s Livewire program supports the resilience and wellbeing of teenagers living with a serious illness, chronic health condition or disability in hospital and beyond. The program is delivered nationally in a variety of settings, including the mental health program supported by the Gandel Foundation.

Livewire remains the only national program of its kind, delivered as an integral part of the healthcare of young people and in partnership with healthcare professionals. Starlight’s Livewire facilitators are trained to respond to the specific circumstances of individuals – tailoring their interactions to ensure they respond to the unique needs of teenagers. Below are extracts from Starlight Foundation’s report on the program:

Current Mental Health and Wellbeing of Young People

2020-2021 turned life upside down for all of us, as we experienced restrictions, isolation and uncertainty as a result of the pandemic. The adverse impact of the pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of young people in Australia, including the ability to cope, heightened anxiety, and levels of psychological distress has been well documented.

Adolescent mental health units around Australia are experiencing unprecedented pressure and the incidence of children under ten presenting with mental health issues has also increased dramatically. It seems that the current health pandemic may be in the process of becoming a mental health pandemic for young people.

Throughout this time, Livewire remained integral healthcare of these young people, helping them overcome social isolation and improving mental wellbeing.

The Impact of Gandel Foundation’s support

With a three-year Flagship Grant from Gandel Foundation, since July 2019 Starlight has been able to deliver the Livewire program in 12 Mental Health wards across Australia. In that period Starlight provided 11,000 Livewire Connection Experiences (experiences based around the specific interests and skills of a young person), and 17,548 Livewire Group Session Experiences (experiences based on group activities that foster social connection between young people).

These activities, delivered individually and as group workshops, covered everything from music and photography to film making, creative writing, animation, coding and art.

Below comments from hospital practitioners are a testament to the strength of the program and the actual benefit it provides to young people in care.

Patrick, Clinical nurse Specialist, Eating Disorders:

“Livewire is such a fantastic program to have in the Hospital.

It creates social normalisation, while trying to keep up sort of a normal teenage life. The conditions can get very difficult trying to get the kids to recover medically, but often the psychosocial side is getting neglected. Livewire helps the patients to develop connections and help build up their self-esteem and their sense of worth, making the hospitalisation a bit less traumatic.

Post mealtimes, for example, are extremely stressful, as we make sure that the patients are staying in bed and not utilising any energy. That’s where Livewire is really invaluable to us, as the facilitators come into the rooms and do activities to distract the kids away from any sort of negative thoughts and their anxieties.

Just for that second, the teens forget that they are in a strict hospital environment where there are machines beeping all the time, and people and doctors coming and going.

The teenagers get to have fun, and do something they enjoy. I’ve seen kids making a piece of artwork that inspires them to not only get through the hospital admission but to recover outside of hospital and they can take it with them and use that as motivation.

That mood improvement that Livewire provides, really helps with the teens’ motivation to get out of the hospital, to get better and to go through all the steps needed. I think this probably does lead to a reduction in the admission times and the admission lengths.”

Ali, Occupational Therapist, Acute Mental Health Ward:

“Livewire is a massive part of our group program. The facilitators come three days a week, and they engage with the young adults in the afternoon, which is a really tricky period for us. A lot of the time the patients are talking about heavy issues and the difficulties that they’re having at home. And Livewire just really helps them be just teenagers.

With Livewire, everyone is involved, having a good time, listening to music in the background as they’re doing their painting or playing their board games.

We have had a couple of young girls that have really been struggling with self-harm. Livewire coming and engaging with them, has gotten them to focus on something that they love, like art.  Thanks to Livewire, the girls have been able to express themselves when they’re adding to something, giving a part of themselves and contributing to something much bigger, while being really proud of it.

The teens really value Livewire and the nurses do too. Our kids are too old to engage with Starlight because they are teenagers, and Livewire is the cool option! It’s such a fantastic addition to what we can offer to our kids and our families, and we just hope they can keep coming more!”