Following a successful career in marketing, Melinda Hutchings made the bold decision to move on from her corporate role and focus on becoming a writer in order to use her knowledge and personal experience to help young people believe in themselves.
Having lost her teenage years to anorexia, Melinda is passionate about promoting positive body image as well as empowering young people to trust the voice that speaks from their heart to create a happy and fulfilling future.
She has written three books about eating disorders, including the recently published Why Can’t I Look the Way I Want? Overcoming Eating Issues, which have helped thousands of people understand the dynamics of eating disorders from early warning signs through to the recovery process.
A high profile role model and mentor, Melinda was a Finalist in Cosmopolitan's ‘Fun Fearless Female 2009’ awards in the category ‘Inspirational Role Model’.
Her fourth book, It Will Get Better; Finding Your Way Through Teen Issues, has just been published by Allen & Unwin and aims to help teenagers find their way through the maze of emotions and challenges facing them today.
Having devoted the past three years to interviewing teens and young adults who have suffered through hardship, Melinda is attuned with the struggles teens face and believes that by increasing their knowledge and awareness, they will better be able to develop strategies to face and overcome challenging issues and recognise their enormous potential. Melinda is an Ambassador for the Life Changing Experiences Foundation. An experienced speaker, she has presented at several conferences and forums, and has also been profiled extensively in the media. Melinda graduated from the Australian College of Journalism in 2002 and is an accredited Professional Coach. She is a member of the International Coach Federation, the Australian Society of Authors and the NSW Writers Centre.
Q&AQ&A – Melinda Hutchings
1. What issues does It Will Get Better deal with and why do you feel these issues are important?
It Will Get Better deals with many serious issues affecting teenagers today including family break ups, coping with abuse (physical, sexual & emotional), living with an alcoholic parent, suicide, eating issues, depression, drugs, binge drinking, self injury, being gay/coming out, bullying, cyberbullying and dealing with the death of a parent or a friend.
These issues are important because there are young people out there struggling through difficult situations who need to know that they are not alone. Not only that, these issues can be overwhelming if someone feels misunderstood or that no-one is listening to them. My book shows that there are other teenagers who have struggled through these issues as well as what helped them find themselves and how they were able to discover their true potential. There are also wonderful experts out there who are kind and compassionate and know exactly what needs to be done to help teenagers in crisis get back on track, who provide expert advice throughout the book.
I believe that instead of turning a blind eye to these issues in the hope that they will go away, exposing them and acknowledging them is the only way forward. The greater the awareness in terms of how to deal with these issues, the more teenagers will be able to face them, overcome them and move forward with confidence.
2. How will your book help parents, carers and teenagers?
It Will Get Better is revealing and informative, providing strategies that will help parents and carers know and understand the issues affecting teens today and how to help. The book contains numerous real life stories from teens who have struggled and overcome difficult situations. The book also highlights the process involved with recognising the issue and asking for help, how to move forward and discovering positive aspects about yourself as you grow through a difficult situation. The final chapters of the book are inspirational and include gems of wisdom from teens who have found a way through their issues, to help other teens with direction, purpose and creating happiness and fulfilment.
3. What organisations are involved with your book and how does this improve the quality of information for teenagers?
The book has a great deal of support from many organisations dedicated to helping young people overcome hardship. The Inspire Foundation, which encompasses ReachOut and ActNow, Kids Helpline, Oasis Youth Support Network, headspace, Youth Insearch, Life Changing Experiences Foundation and the Butterfly Foundation have all contributed important information to help teenagers who are struggling through the various issues outlined in the book. Alongside the real life stories there is expert advice not only from these organisations, but from health professionals and psychologists to provide clinical aspects to further help teenagers feel understood, less alone and find their way through. Addressing each issue from the clinical as well as the emotional aspect enriches the quality of information.
4. How does your book help parents and carers?
Parents and carers will benefit from the book because the real life stories of teens in crisis will give them an understanding of what is going on inside the head and heart of their teenager/s. This will be valuable in helping them deal with a particular issue because each issue is addressed from an emotional as well as a clinical perspective in order to provide a broad insight into the issue itself and how to overcome it and move forward.
There is also a section called “Helping someone you love” and this explains the importance of being supportive and patient, encouraging your loved one to do the things they enjoy, giving them hope and letting them know you love them no matter what.
5. What in your opinion are the most prevalent issues affecting teenagers today?
Cyberbullying is at the forefront due to the recent spate of suicides from young people who were bullied online. Because it is non-confrontational and everything spreads so rapidly online it has become easier to bully someone through the internet. Some schools have implemented policies related to all forms of bullying, including cyberbullying, which I think is a very positive step forward. If there are consequences in place, including the threat of a criminal charge, this will act as a deterrent.
Another prevalent issue is alcohol. We need to raise the awareness of the dangers of binge drinking and the fact that alcohol adversely alters behaviour to help teenagers avoid doing something they might regret.
Another issue is family break-ups. An interesting statistic is that one in five children are now living in single parent households. There is a shift in the perception of single parents and one of the quotes in the book is from Dianne Fitzjames, team leader of the adolescent service at Prince of Wales hospital, who states “It has been well established by research that in order to develop normally we need only one "good enough" relationship with a parental figure …the quality of relationships in the child's life is more important than whether families have one parent or two”.
It is important for young people to know that if their family splits up, after the initial period of discomfort and adjustment, they still have every opportunity to thrive. And even if their childhood lacked love, they have the opportunity to change that by creating more love in their lives and opening themselves up to those who love them now.
6. What is the overall aim of your book?
The aim of my book is to provide a comprehensive account of the issues affecting teenagers today and strategies to work through and overcome these issues. The real life stories of teens in crisis, expert advice, practical tips, websites and many other supportive resources are all there to help teens better understand how to find their way through. Having faced some pretty tough issues myself, the book is underpinned with my own experiences, knowledge and wisdom. The last part of the book provides insights for teens about changing perspective, becoming self aware and making positive choices to work towards achieving their goals.
My overall aim is also to help teenagers find their potential and confidence so that they can move forward and live with happiness, fulfilment, direction and purpose.