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Mental health support is needed for children and young people

Placing a stronger priority on mental health prevention and early intervention services is key to the life-long mental health and safety of children and young people in Western Australia.

The Commissioner for Children and Young People WA Mr Colin Pettit said he was once again incredibly saddened to hear of more suicides by WA young people.

“While the majority of our children and young people are doing well, the tragedy of a number of recent suspected suicides indicates an underlying issue with the pressures children and young people are experiencing in our communities."

“It is clear we are not doing enough to provide services and supports to children and young people to both prevent them getting to this place and to effectively support them when they do.”

“While I know that they are working to meet demand, the last report from Kids Helpline showed that in 2014 they were only able to answer 57% of calls for help from children and young people in WA.”

“This is indicative of a state-wide resourcing issue which is affecting children and young people's mental health.”

“Our response to children and young people in crisis needs to improve, but so does our investment in long-term strategies to prevent young people from getting to the point of needing crisis assistance.”

“It is imperative families are provided with early assistance to establish a strong foundation of positive mental health in childhood and early adolescence and to intervene early in symptoms of an illness.”

In December the Commissioner tabled in Parliament the office’s second report on the mental health of WA children that outlines the ongoing lack of appropriate mental health services for children and young people and their families.

The review found that while progress has been made in some areas, significant gaps remain, particularly the need to fully resource and implement The Western Australian Mental Health, Alcohol and Other Drug Services Plan 2015-2025.

The Ombudsman of WA’s report in 2014 also made important findings about factors affecting youth suicide.

“We need to follow up on the recommendations made about how government agencies can act to prevent and reduce youth suicide,” Mr Pettit said.

“I was pleased to hear that listening to children and young people is seen as an important step in preventing more young lives from being lost and I commend the young people who are working to give young people a voice on this issue, however we need to get better at acting on what they say.”

“I will be continuing to work with communities across the State, government and service providers to help to build better ways of maintaining strong mental health in our younger generations from birth.”