Youth suicide

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — My adjournment matter is for the attention of the Minister for Mental Health and concerns youth suicide within my electorate. The action I seek is that the minister meet with the City of Casey Youth Suicide Steering Committee to discuss what we can do to identify and care for young people at risk within our community.

Sadly, between 2011 and 2012, 12 young people from the City of Casey and Cardinia Shire committed suicide. This was a truly devastating time for our local community, especially our local schools and their students. Just last month the Coroners Court of Victoria released its report into these tragic deaths. The report found that during this period there was a higher rate of suspected suicides within our community, which the coroner defined as a suicide cluster — a term that no-one should ever have to speak of or even consider. The report also found that the frequency of self-harm incidents more than doubled between 2009 and 2010.

In response to community concern about these deaths the City of Casey formed the Youth Suicide Steering Committee and an advisory committee. The committee comprises Monash Health, Victoria Police, government departments, Independent Schools Victoria and Catholic Education Melbourne. Together they provided much-needed leadership and support to the community during a particularly difficult time. In fact the coroner recommended:

… that the Municipal Association of Victoria in consultation with the City of Casey develop a suicide prevention and post-vention response framework for local government …

It is vital that we all continue to work together to ensure that we can provide the support and care our young people need. We must also ensure that our young people feel comfortable speaking up and asking for our help. Too many men and women, especially young men and women, who are suffering with mental health issues do not seek treatment.

Recently an editorial in the Age reported on the findings of the biggest ever study on mental health among Australian children and teenagers. The research estimated that as many as 560 000 young people experienced mental health issues in the past year, primarily anxiety disorders and/or depression, with one in 13 children aged between 12 and 17 having seriously considered suicide. The editorial also highlighted a study undertaken by the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre in 2013 which found that in the preceding 12 months as many as one in five males aged between 16 and 25 felt that life was not worth living and nearly one in 10 had actually contemplated suicide.

Reports have also highlighted that many parents certainly do not understand that their children may be in this state of mind. These struggling young people remain silent, too afraid to reach out and ask for help. A family, a school, a specialist and a community must be there for them when they need it most. I ask the minister to join with me and the City of Casey’s Youth Suicide Steering Committee to ensure that we can do just that.