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New partnership with Sandfire to boost services in the Murchison

A new partnership between Youth Focus and Sandfire Resources will help more young people access important mental health care in the state’s Murchison region.

Under an innovative partnership, mining company Sandfire will provide $150,000 over the next three years, enabling Youth Focus to strengthen its psychological care offerings through its Murchison Youth Severe Service.

In addition, Sandfire contractors Sodexo and DDH1 Drilling have each generously committed $30,000 over the three years.

The program, which services the Murchison communities of Meekatharra, Mt Magnet, Cue, Yulga Jinna and Buttah Windee, provides free counselling support for disengaged young people with severe anxiety, depression, early psychosis and other mental illnesses.

The arrangement allows for significant expansion of the service, with the recruitment of a part-time female Aboriginal youth engagement officer.

This is in addition to two clinical psychologists who visit the region each week to provide free one-on-one counselling, and a full-time Aboriginal youth engagement officer based in Meekatharra.

Youth Focus Chief Executive Officer Arthur Papakotsias said the partnership would enhance outreach services in the region and allow Youth Focus to build community understanding about mental health through cultural, artistic and musical projects.

“This partnership gives a significant boost to our established Murchison Youth Severe Service so we can provide youth counselling and build rapport and trust with these communities to deliver fresh, effective mental health programs,” Mr Papakotsias said.

“Our tailored Murchison program uses the fundamentals of song, art and traditional Aboriginal culture to engage with young people and broach important discussions about mental health. This has proven very effective in connecting with at-risk youths.

“The need is well documented. Research shows that suicide rates are five times higher in Aboriginal and indigenous communities. For this reason, it is imperative that we have trained clinicians working with local communities to help arrest this trend.”

Sandfire Resources Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Karl Simich said the company was delighted to partner with Youth Focus to expand the initiative.

“Sandfire is very pleased to be involved with this initiative, which is consistent with the overall focus of our community contribution and partnership programs to support health and wellbeing in remote communities,” Mr Simich said.

“We are particularly committed to sustainable partnerships that work to deliver enduring benefits that extend beyond the life of our operations in any particular region.”

Sodexo Asia Pacific Mining Chief Executive Officer Paul Cooper said: “One in five Australians each year will experience a mental illness and two thirds won’t seek help.”

“We want to change this reality in Australia and for today’s youth, and ensure there are increased levels of understanding of mental health issues not only within our workplace but also in the local communities where we operate.”

DDH1 Drilling Managing Director Murray Pollock said: “DDH1 is privileged to partner with Sandfire and Sodexo in supporting Youth Focus in the Murchison. Ensuring that mental health support services are freely available to all in regional Australia has never been more important than at the present time.”

The Murchison Youth Severe Service was initially funded by the WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA) last year, providing $345,000 over 18 months.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are five times more likely to die by suicide than non-Indigenous children. In 2016, the death rate for Indigenous children was 9.8 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to 1.9 per 100,000 for non-Indigenous young people.

Youth Focus has provided counselling and support to young people across WA for the past 25 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.

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