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Youth Focus web counselling service grows

Youth Focus has expanded Western Australia’s first face-to-face youth web counselling service to 10 country towns, allowing greater access to mental health support for young people in the regions.

The ground-breaking initiative offers free, confidential therapy with experienced mental health clinicians through a secure video conferencing platform.

In May, Youth Focus launched the program, targeting select country areas to increase the availability of counselling services to young people living in remote and regional towns.

Web counselling services are now operating from Narrogin, Wagin, Katanning, Northam, Dalwallinu, Esperance, Gnowangerup, Waroona, Merredin and Moora.

Youth Focus General Manager of Operations Emma Brierty said the 10 towns had been identified as priority sites under the first phase of the program.

“Since the initial roll-out of web counselling in May, we have seen this landmark service gain considerable momentum,” Ms Brierty said.

“The feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive, particularly in areas where youth mental health services are scarce or do not exist.

“Youth Focus is now actively engaging with vulnerable young people in 10 regional towns through our web counselling platform. These are young people who live in areas where services are limited, in some cases do not exist and otherwise may not have been able to access important support.”

Under the initiative, young people can make an appointment and visit confidential, designated sites to access a Youth Focus iPad and a secure room for their face-to-face counselling session. Each site has trained staff to support young people.

The expanded program comes after a successful trial in several Wheatbelt schools in 2016. The WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA) has provided $380,000 funding for the first year of the project.

Ms Brierty said web counselling enabled greater coverage of WA in the provision of youth mental health services.

“While Youth Focus provides counselling and education services across WA from Albany to Geraldton, we are limited in our capacity to employ clinicians in small and remote towns,” she said.

“This can make it especially challenging for young people to access mental health support and lead to them feeling even more isolated.

“We believe distance should not be a barrier for young people to access counselling and support services. That is why we have developed this innovative program to help expand the reach of Youth Focus offerings to young people in WA, no matter where they live.”

Latest statistics 51 young people aged between 15 and 24 took their own lives in WA in 2017. For every suicide, another 20 people attempt to take their own lives.

In addition, one in four young Australians live with a mental health condition, with 75 per cent of mental illnesses first appearing in people under the age of 25.

Last financial year, Youth Focus supported a record number of young people in WA, providing free counselling and assessment services to 3678 young people and school and community education to another 6000.

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. For more information about the Youth Focus web counselling program call 6266 4333.

Nicole Cox – 0419 941 443, [email protected]