Connexions is Victoria’s longest-running service for youth facing both mental health and drug and alcohol issues. SEZ WILKS chats to Connexions counsellor BECKY HALLIDAY about the changes one young woman has made through the program.


Connexions was Victoria’s first dual diagnosis service for young people with concurrent mental health and substance abuse problems. Image: Fiona Basile.

When Katie* joined Jesuit Social Services’ Connexions program in 2016, she was struggling with an alcohol problem and mental illness.

She was disengaged from work and learning, and her relationship with her family was strained. To cope, Katie was self-harming and drinking to excess.

“But with help, Katie was feeling ready to address her emotional difficulties”, says Becky Halliday, Katie’s counsellor at Connexions.

Flexible support, tailored to young people

Connexions was founded by Jesuit Social Services in 1996 as Victoria’s first dual diagnosis service. The program engages young people with concurrent mental health and substance abuse problems and works with them to improve their lives.

According to Becky, regular appointments at the same time and place each week don’t always work for young people.

“So if Katie wasn’t feeling up to coming here to visit me, because of how we work – mobile, flexible, proactive – we’ve been able to continue our work together.”

Putting young people on new pathways

With the support of Connexions, Katie is making many changes in her life. She’s reconnecting with family and now regularly goes to the gym. Her anxiety has subsided and she is learning to control her alcohol use, and no longer drinks on a daily basis.

“Katie’s been able to develop positive relationships with other services. I’ve seen huge improvement in her managing lots of areas of her life: in education, housing, in social interactions with family and friends.”

Katie has also started on a pathway towards employment. She is enrolled in an aged care course and is volunteering at an animal shelter. Ultimately, she wants to work with vulnerable people to share some of her own experiences.

Becky says it’s been a privilege to get to know Katie and be part of her journey. Through Connexions, she says, Katie has gone “from strength to strength”.


*Names and images have been changed to protect privacy