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Youth suicide prevention to remain a priority amid new data

Youth Focus has called for continued investment in youth suicide prevention and mental health, amid new statistics that show suicide remains the leading cause of death for people aged between 15 and 44.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Causes of Death 2018 report, released today, shows 3046 people died from intentional self-harm in Australia last year, compared to 3128 the previous year.

In WA alone, 383 people died as a result of suicide in 2018, compared to 409 in 2017. This included 49 young people aged between 15 and 24, slightly down from 51 the previous year.

Meanwhile, the WA Ombudsman’s annual report, published last week, showed 18 young West Australians aged between 13 and 17 died by suicide in 2018-19, an increase from 12 the previous financial year.

The report found suicide was the “most common circumstance of death” for WA youths aged between 13 and 17, accounting for 45% of deaths in the age group; and of the 18 deaths, 10 occurred in metropolitan Perth, while eight were in regional WA.

Youth Focus Chief Executive Officer Arthur Papakotsias said greater government investment and community awareness was needed to save young lives.

“We are seeing more funding and education in suicide prevention, yet the number of young people being lost to suicide is still unacceptably high,” Mr Papakotsias said.

“Immediate action needs to be taken for suicide to be addressed as a very serious health and social problem.

“In the same way we research and educate the community about cancer and road deaths; we need to give the same priority and funding to suicide.”

Mr Papakotsias said Youth Focus was committed to teaching young people resilience and how to build coping skills and healthy support networks with their parents, family and friends.

He said while Youth Focus offered a diverse range of mental health services, many were clinic based and there was scope to engage more young people through outreach.

“Youth Focus is seeing a broadening in the complexities and challenges faced by young people and is actively transitioning from purely an early intervention model towards a more targeted style of care,” Mr Papakotsias said.

“There is an urgent need to fund more outreach programs. While there are many young people willing to come to our offices to access support and counselling services, we know the ‘missing middle’ – a cohort of vulnerable young people who do not engage with acute mental health services – are largely struggling alone.

“We want to be able to reach out to these people with a range of holistic, wrap-around services in environments where they feel safe and comfortable and offer tailored help.

“For this reason, we are working to diversify Youth Focus services to ensure we are able to engage with these people, whether it be in their own homes or at youth centres or other community facilities.

“This is just one facet of a refreshed vision for Youth Focus, which we are developing as part of a new strategic direction.”

Last financial year, Youth Focus supported a record number of young people in WA, providing free counselling and assessment services to 4,559 youths and school and community education to another 6,800 people.

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]