8 August 2022

Escalating youth suicide rates push Hilltops mayor to petition

| Edwina Mason
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Hilltops mayor Margaret Roles said the “headspace for Hilltops” campaign had the full support of council. She is pictured here with Hilltops Council general manager Anthony O’Reilly. Image: Hilltops Council.

Concerned about high levels of youth suicide in the region, a South West Slopes mayor has launched a campaign urgently calling for a headspace service in the town of Young.

Hilltops mayor Margaret Roles implored local people to support her by supporting the “headspace for Hilltops” campaign to address the urgent need for improved mental health services in the local government area.

She said the campaign, which has the full support of the council, hinged on a petition requesting Federal Government backing for the facility.

Headspace is the National Youth Mental Health Foundation in Australia and provides early intervention mental health services to people aged 12-15 years.

The non-government organisation, funded by the Federal Government, delivers mental health services to these young people with an emphasis on youth-friendly environments and improved accessibility.

There is an urgent need for improved mental health services in the Hilltops, where youth mental health and youth suicide have become critical issues over recent years.

Cr Roles said latest Murrumbidgee Primary Health Network (MPHN) data indicated rates of intentional self-harm were highest in Young, Cootamundra, Tumut and Leeton.

The MPHN reported 130 intentional self-harm incidents in Hilltops between 2017 to 2019 with a very high rate of suicide of 14.7 per 100,000 people.

“For some time, I have been listening to community concerns about the lack of mental health support for young people who require help within our region,” Cr Roles said.

“There are gaps in service access for young people and over half the hospitalisations of our youth, aged between 15-19 years are for mental health-related disorders,” she said.

However, she said, the Hilltops region had no centre for people to access support services outside of the hospital network.

“Support unfortunately can be difficult to access and often requires travel out of the Hilltops LGA,” she added.

Headspace facilities located at Wagga Wagga and Griffith fall within the MPHN while another satellite facility, which opened at Cowra in February 2022, falls under the Western NSW Primary Health Network (PHN).

Cr Roles said many young people in the LGA also needed help coping with parental substance abuse, especially alcohol.

“By establishing a headspace service in Young, with outreach services into surrounding communities, including Boorowa and Harden, support will be accessible to our young people and provide the Hilltop communities with the chance to break the tragic cycle of mental health, self-harm, attempted suicides, and suicides,” she said.

The petition has been launched by the Hilltops Youth Action Group to lobby the Federal Government to provide this service to our community.

Cr Roles said signing the petition provided the community with an opportunity to, “make a difference to the young people of our Hilltops and ensure local access to support services”.

The petition can be signed here or via the Hilltops Council and Hilltops Youth Action Group Facebook pages.

It will also be available at pop-up locations in Hilltops towns and villages over the coming months.

“I ask everyone to support the youth of our beautiful Hilltops by signing the petition,” mayor Roles said.

In March 2022, the signing of a landmark new bilateral agreement hailed an era of significant investment from the Commonwealth and NSW governments to support mental health and suicide prevention in NSW over the next five years.

The agreement saw a $383 million investment in mental health and suicide prevention support over the five year period, with $106.1 million going to headspace to substantially expand and enhance services, ensuring it can reach more young people across the state.

If you would like to learn more about the mental health support services funded by MPHN, click here.

Anyone experiencing distress can seek immediate advice and support through Lifeline
(13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), or the Government’s digital mental health gateway, Head to Health.

If you are concerned about suicide, living with someone who is considering suicide, or bereaved by suicide, the Suicide Call Back Service is available at 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au.

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