A DELEGATION from Mandurah met with the Prime Minister and Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley this afternoon to discuss the recent increase in youth suicide deaths in Mandurah.
Canning MP Andrew Hastie, Mandurah MLA David Templeman, Dawesville MLA Kim Hames, Mandurah Mayor Marina Vergone, Young West Australian of the Year Rhys Williams, representatives from Peel Youth Services, WA Police and two students from a local high school made up the delegation.
The group were asking for $6 million for the Peel Youth Medical Service’s (PYMS) Health Hub, which will bring mental health, medical and social services under one roof.
Mr Hastie said he called the urgent, behind closed doors meeting with Malcolm Turnbull, after six young people in Mandurah took their own lives since December.
The Prime Minister made no promises regarding funding, but the group seemed hopeful after the meeting.
Youth leaders “glad for the opportunity”
Local youth leaders Matthew Read and Paige Rosenberg, both 17, said they were glad they had the opportunity to talk to Mr Turnbull about their experience.
They were able to speak to the Prime Minister about suicides in the region and the need for more facilities to help young people who are struggling.
Ms Rosenberg was friends with one of the young men who took his life.
“It was obviously unexpected, I was just devastated and I had guilt that I hadn’t talked to him in the past few years,” said.
“Everyone feels sad that they weren’t there for him when he needed it.”
Ms Rosenberg said they are not offering enough help for young people in the region.
“There isn’t enough at the moment which is clear,” she said.
“We need to focus on the fact that getting these services would be good, but that we have to go to them too.
“We need to educate kids that it’s ok to go to these services and it’s ok to be sad.”
Mr Read said it could be uncomfortable talking to friends about mental health issues.
“It makes you uncomfortable to talk to your friends because you might be seen as wimpy or weak,” he said.
“There’s that male image that has been created.”
Mr Williams said it is a difficult time for the Mandurah community, but he was glad to put the issue on the national agenda.
“It highlights what we’ve known about our region for some time,” he said.
“We have some really serious challenges to address collectively.
“I’ve never been as proud of our region as I was today, watching our community leaders step up and look at tackling this issue.”
“If suicide prevention is about finding hope, then what’s been happening in the past few weeks is a good demonstration that we can find hope.”
Mr Williams said the recent increase in youth suicide surprised him.
“But I’ll say that we’ve known about these challenges, they’re the same we have always had – high youth unemployment, high levels of dysfunction in the family, we’ve known these issues have existed for decades and hopefully through good strong collaboration like we’ve demonstrated today we can tackle that.”
He also welcomed the change in attitudes that now allow people to talk about suicide openly.
“I think that’s the big issue, we’ve talked about not talking about suicide as a way of preventing copy cats,” he said.
“But the reality is the conversation is happening anyway, so to be able to provide a proactive response to that, get on the front foot and provide a solution to the issue is something that is really exciting.
“This is not happening in other places, so we should be proud of that.”
Mr Williams wants the Federal Government to get behind the health hub.
“But there’s a short term quick response that has to happen and that’s getting into those schools, getting into the community and finding ways to inspire aspiration and hope so young people can avoid attending these services in the first place,” he said.
Community Engagement Unit Sergeant Paul Trimble represented WA Police.
He has been on the frontline of this issue for many years.
“It is one of the worst jobs we have to deal with, knocking on the door and telling someone their family member has passed away,” he said.
“But going into someone’s worst nightmare when they’ve had to call us up is awful.
“It’s about getting these young people help and getting them to talk about how they are feeling.”
Mr Hastie said the region experienced deep social and economic pressures.
He said there is a need in the community for better support services for young people to cope with depression, anxiety and relationship pressures.
Mr Hastie said the national suicide rate is double the road toll but did not receive the same attention.
“The PYMS Health Hub is a best practice, GP-centred model of care that will provide a suite of services for 12-24 year olds dealing with drug and alcohol issues, mental health issues, family dysfunction and homelessness,” he said.
“The group that met with the Prime Minister and Health Minister today is united in its support for this project, across all levels of government and both sides of the political spectrum, as part of a working solution focused on early intervention and prevention.
“PYMS already has a proven track record of youth engagement in the Peel region, but we are seeking Federal funding for a new facility that will allow PYMS to expand services to keep up with the rapid population growth we’ve experienced.”
Kids Helpline is a private and confidential phone counselling service specifically for young people aged between five and 25-years-old. Call 1800 551 800.
Lifeline Australia provide crisis support and suicide prevention. Call 13 11 14.