Community leaders, schools, service providers and other organisations gathered in Wallan on Friday for a roundtable discussion about one of the most significant issues facing young people in Mitchell Shire — youth mental health.
The session, organised by Mitchell Shire Council’s Youth Services and the Youth Council, identified a range of barriers for young people in the shire experiencing mental health issues.
Renowned child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg kicked off the event, speaking about his experiences working in the industry and the latest youth mental health data.
Mitchell Youth Council member Lachlan Matthews-Gunn spoke about his battle with mental health issues and his difficulties finding professional local help.
The event finished with a panel discussion featuring headspace Craigieburn’s Brendan Pawsey, Seymour College principal Gail Hardman, The Bridge Youth Service chief executive officer Melinda Lawley and Youth Affairs Council Victoria chief executive officer Leo Fieldgrass.
Dr Carr-Gregg said with research showing 70-80 per cent of young people with psychological problems were not seeking help, it was important children were educated about mental health from a young age.
‘‘Mental health literacy is just as important as learning maths, science and English,’’ Dr Carr-Gregg said.
‘‘Children need to learn how to cope with life, then how to count. We know that if you teach kids things like anger management techniques and conflict resolution when they are young, you see marked improvements in their behaviours.
‘‘We need a paradigm shift because it’s evident to me that after 30 years in the industry, what we have been doing isn’t working — awareness campaigns haven’t worked, suicide rates are at their highest in 10 years.’’
Advocacy and Community Services director Mary Agostino described Mitchell Shire as a ‘‘black hole’’ of services and said the council was advocating hard to see more services established in the shire.
‘‘Our population is booming and although we are only at the beginning of our rapid growth, our community’s access to vital health services is already strained and existing services cannot meet demand,’’ Mrs Agostino said.
‘‘Residents needing help are asked to travel far and wide to places outside our municipality, and with limited public transport options, this is simply not good enough and has to change — things are only going to get worse if nothing is done now.
‘‘We can learn from the challenges that other growth councils like Whittlesea and Wyndham have faced. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help our young people make the best possible start in life by putting good prevention strategies in place and providing early investment in community facilities and services.
‘‘Young people are our future. We value the contribution they can make to our community and we want to give them every chance at success. Council has a role to play in that along with the state government and the many people and organisations that can help with prevention and on-the-ground support.’’
Better access to services is one of the council’s key advocacy priorities in the lead-up to the Victorian election.
The council is calling on the Victorian Government for $250000 to fit out a Youth Services Hub in Wallan and commit $300000 per annum for services to assist with youth mental health issues.
The council is also calling for funding for a range of services which may help prevent youth mental health issues such as a family violence support hub, increased family violence counselling services and crisis support, and children and family support services.
A range of actions from the roundtable discussion will now be developed to either start implementing in partnership with other organisations or to add to the council’s advocacy priorities.
Those in attendance at the roundtable discussion included Berry Street, CRLLEN, Family Care, headspace, Kilmore and District Hospital, Lower Hume PCP, Nexus Primary Health, Salvation Army, Seymour Flexible Learning, The Bridge Youth Services, Victoria Police, YACVic, Assumption College, Broadford Secondary College, BALTS, Kilmore International School, Puckapunyal Primary School, Tallarook Primary School, Tooborac Primary School, Seymour College, Wallan Secondary College, Wandong Primary School and representatives from state and federal MPs’ offices.
Further roundtable discussions on other issues such as homelessness will be held later this year.
●For more information on the council’s advocacy priorities, visit www.mitchellshire .vic.gov.au