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Young people’s experiences highlight need for change on suicide response

A new report released today adds to the growing evidence that WA needs to change its approach to reduce youth suicide. 

Commissioner Colin Pettit said 55 young people had shared their experiences in accessing mental health services and opportunities to reduce youth suicide as part of the Informing youth suicide prevention for Western Australia report.

“Young people described how what had both helped and hindered them in seeking support for their mental health, including experiences of suicidal thoughts, and how they had been supported,” Mr Pettit said.

“While there has been increased attention on reducing suicide rates in young people, this report once again highlights the need for a strong, coordinated response.”

The young people who shared their experiences for this report raised the fear of being judged, the stigma of mental health, lack of service availability as well as restrictions in meeting criteria for intake to services as some of the barriers to accessing the support they need.

“We need to improve the response for young people at risk of suicide as well as build the capacity within the community and schools to help prevent suicide,” Mr Pettit said.

“We also need to invest 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 2015 the Commissioner tabled in Parliament the office’s second report on the mental health of WA children that outlined an ongoing lack of appropriate mental health services for children and young people and their families.

Since that time, there has been a range of inquiries and reports investigating mental health and youth suicide in Western Australia, including a report by the State Coroner which made a range of recommendations following the deaths of 13 young people in the Kimberley.

“The evidence is clear – we need to change our approach and work in a coordinated effort if we are to reduce the rate of suicide in our young people,” Mr Pettit said. 

The Informing youth suicide prevention for Western Australia report is the result of work by the Youth Mental Health Sub Network, supported by the Telethon Kids Institute, Mission Australia, MercyCare, Youth Focus, the WA Primary Health Alliance, the North Metropolitan Health Service and the Commissioner.