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Serious funding needed to help save lives, amid COVID fallout

Youth Focus has called for greater government investment in mental health, as new data reveals youth suicide numbers are unabating with predictions the pandemic will cast more young people into despair.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Causes of Death 2019 report, released today, shows 49 young people aged between 15 and 24 died from intentional self-harm in Western Australia last year. The number is the same as the previous year.

Nationally, 3318 people died by suicide in Australia last year, compared to 3046 the previous year.

In WA alone, 418 people took their own lives in 2019 – the highest in 10 years – compared to 383 in 2018.

Across Australia, more than one-third of all deaths in young people aged between 15 and 24 were attributed to suicide last year.

Youth Focus Chief Executive Officer Arthur Papakotsias said while youth suicide statistics had remained constant, the increased number of Western Australians who took their own lives last year was sobering.

“This data hits home,” Mr Papakotsias said. “Despite our very best intentions and approach to suicide prevention as a community, we have been unable to arrest the number of people taking their own lives.

“Each death is a tragedy. These statistics do not reflect the personal impacts of suicide and the ripple effect of each loss, which is immeasurable.

“We are seeing continued funding and education in suicide prevention, yet the number of young people being lost to suicide is still tragically high.”

Mr Papakotsias said while considerable investment had been made in mental health, more was needed, particularly as mental health organisations grapple to help more Western Australians post pandemic.

“Never before has access to mental health support been so important for young people,” he said.

“The University of Sydney has forecast a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 related mental health related presentations to emergency departments, hospital treatment after self-harm episodes and suicide deaths of people aged between 15-24. At best, research by the university’s Brain and Mind Centre projects an increase of suicides of young people by 12.4%, at worst 18.3% over the next five years.

“We have seen a significant increase in demand for our services, which grew by 34% last financial year, and we expect an upward trend in the number of young people facing mental health challenges as a result of the COVID pandemic.

“For that reason, we need to see greater investment to help save young lives. Early intervention and education is the key to turning the tide on this insidious social issue.

“It is imperative that governments allocate adequate funding so organisations like Youth Focus so we can continue to help address this devastating blowback on our community as a matter of urgency.”

Last financial year Youth Focus supported 6090 young people through its free, uncapped counselling and assessment services and another 5773 people through school and community education programs at 37 schools.

If you or someone you know needs urgent support please contact the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

Nicole Cox – 0419 941 443
[email protected]