For years, it was a daily battle for Charlise Morley to get out of bed.
- A Finley teen is using her own high school experiences to help others struggling with mental illness
- Charlise Morley quit school at the end of year 11 to work towards becoming a counsellor
- There is an acute mental health worker shortage in regional and remote communities
From the age of 12, she'd wake up daily with severe panic attacks — shaking, crying, and battling to breathe.
Struggling to fit into the confines of the traditional schooling system, the Finley teen was also a victim of bullying.
Caught in a downward spiral of anxiety and depression, she didn't know where to turn. And it felt like no-one was answering her cries for help.
"There was a real lack of understanding from the schooling system towards mental health," she says.
'I need to find a way out'
Struggling to access support, Charlise tried to suppress her feelings.
"But the more I pushed them away, the worse it got," she says.
At the end of year 11, Charlise, now 17, left school and enrolled in a Certificate IV in Mental Health at TAFE New South Wales.
She describes it as her "saving grace".
"I started to recognise my mental wellness as something that was completely valid and I didn't have to push it to the side," she says.
Regional mental health support shortage
The Australian Department of Health says country communities are in the grip of a severe mental health worker shortage.
A new survey by the Australian Psychological Society has revealed while 28 per cent of Australia's population lives in rural or remote parts of the country, eight out of 10 psychologists are in major cities.
Many parents say their children can't access care until it's too late.
But Charlise wants that to change.
"I know there is online support, but that can feel quite disconnecting and not actually helping," she says.
"I was just like, if no-one else is doing something about this, I'm going to do something about it for myself.
"I'd try to be a counsellor for other students that I wish I'd had."
Mental health studies bring healing
By learning strategies to help others, Charlise says she has also developed skills to help herself.
And in a step of courage, she recently returned to her old high school to complete a placement.
"It was amazing," she says.
"I got the opportunity to develop a little booklet for the students about the basics of mental health and coping strategies."
Charlise is now enrolled in a Diploma of Counselling through TAFE.
And she has plans to later study a Bachelor of Psychology.
"What I would've liked to be told is, it's a process," she says.