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Mental health support expanded for Wheatbelt youth

Young people in Western Australia’s Wheatbelt will have access to a greater suite of mental health support, with two new services to help the region’s most vulnerable youth.

Youth Focus has started the Wheatbelt Youth Severe Service in partnership with Avon Community Services, offering free counselling for disengaged young people at risk of chronic anxiety, depression and other mental health challenges.

The service, which started in February and is funded by the WA Primary Health Alliance, provides free counselling in Narrogin and Moora. Regular face-to-face counselling sessions have transitioned to online and telephone platforms and been expanded across the region to provide support during the COVID-19 crisis.

In addition, Youth Focus will open a new headspace service in Northam, which will be run by satellite from the parent centre at Midland headspace three days a week. From mid-2020, the service will host three core streams, including mental health, drug and alcohol, and vocational support.

WAPHA has pledged $400,000 in capital for the new headspace centre at 98 Fitzgerald Street, Northam, as well as funding for $385,000 a year for two years.

Youth Focus Chief Executive Officer Arthur Papakotsias said the Wheatbelt Youth Severe Service and new headspace centre in Northam would provide much-needed support, care and psychological help for disconnected young people in the region.

“We are pleased to be working with WAPHA, headspace and Avon Community Services for the betterment of youth mental health services in the Wheatbelt,” Mr Papakotsias said.

“These new services will ensure crucial help is available for disengaged young people to deal with severe depression, anxiety and other triggers that weigh heavily on mental health.”

Avon Community Services Operations Manager Darren Warland said there was a significant need for more mental health support for young people in the region.

“Avon Community Services provides mentoring programs, diversional activities and a drop-in centre as part of our efforts to help youth in the region,” Mr Warland said.

“In any given month we see more than 300 young people through our programs in Northam, Moora, Narrogin and Merredin. Many of these young people are facing significant life challenges, including homelessness, drug and substance abuse; and domestic violence.

“By working with Youth Focus and linking young people with specialist services, we can have a positive effect – not only on the individual themselves, but local communities as well.”

Latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows suicide is the biggest killer of young people in the nation, with 49 young people aged between 15 and 24 taking their own lives in WA in 2018.

Mr Papakotsias said the ABS figures showed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youths were five times more likely to die by suicide than non-Indigenous young people.

“We know that young Indigenous people are more likely than non-Indigenous people to take their own lives so we need to think differently about community engagement and how we start conversations about mental health and wellbeing,” Mr Papakotsias said.

“Through this arrangement and with the help of local organisations like Darren and the team at Avon Community Services, we can work with young people to help them with issues associated with depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicidal ideation.”

Last financial year, Youth Focus supported a record number of young people aged between 12 and 25 in WA, providing free counselling and assessment services to 4559 young people and school and community education to another 6800.

Youth Focus has provided counselling and support to young people across WA for the past 26 years. Services also include suicide prevention education in the schools and the community, as well as web-counselling to regional and remote parts of the state. For more information, contact Youth Focus on 6266 4333.

MEDIA CONTACT: Nicole Cox – 0419 941 443, [email protected]