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New report gives young people a voice in addressing WA’s youth suicide rate

6 January 2020

A major new report aimed at addressing the appalling 20-year high youth suicide rate in Western Australia has been released by MercyCare and its report partners.

A major new report aimed at addressing the appalling 20-year high youth suicide rate in Western Australia has been released by MercyCare and its report partners.

Informing Youth Suicide Prevention for Western Australia report from Youth Mental Health Sub Network, chaired by MercyCare Family and Community Services Executive Director Lyn Millett and North Metropolitan Heath Service Youth Mental Health Director Warwick Smith, lays out a future blueprint for the State.

In Western Australia, suicide is the leading cause of death for young people aged 15 to 24 years.

Despite significant investment in funding for suicide prevention, in 2018 WA recorded it highest suicide rate in more than 20 years.

The report puts young people’s lived experiences at the centre.

“This report is about getting the voice of young people heard, endorsed and funded by the State Government’s Western Australian Suicide Action Plan 2021-2025. Who knows better than those who have navigated the system and can speak from lived experience,” Lyn Millett said.

“While there has been increased funding in this area, there hasn’t been significant inroads across the board. This report provides critical insights into young people’s experience of current services and makes key recommendations for system change aimed at bringing support to those when they need it.

“We want young people to have their voices heard and work hand-in-hand with the State Government in determining their own care. The recommendations in this report are a big step towards that.”

The report’s findings were released to the State Government during the draft Western Australian Suicide Action Plan 2021-2025’s consultation period, and officially handed to the Hon Alanna Clohesy MLC, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health; Mental Health, during December.

The Informing Youth Suicide Prevention for Western Australia research project, compiled by Embrace at Telethon Kids Institute (WA’s first research centre devoted to the mental health of children and young people) was made possible through collaboration between young people, their families and friends, youth mental health workers and researchers.

The project steering group included representatives from the Western Australian Government, the Western Australian Primary Health Alliance, the Commissioner for Children and Young People, Telethon Kids Institute and community organisations working on the ground MercyCare, Youth Focus and Mission Australia working actively with young people across the State.

Key recommendations include:

  • The Mental Health Commission needs to develop a specific youth suicide prevention strategy for Western Australia.
  • Develop a comprehensive youth suicide prevention model for WA.
  • Involve young people in the conversation about youth suicide.
  • Ensure that there is comprehensive and coordinated planning, modelling and resourcing of evidence-based youth suicide prevention and intervention initiatives that is aligned with need.

The report urgently calls for a collaborative and flexible system across all levels of care from start to finish. WA does not currently have an overarching youth-specific suicide prevention strategy.

The report stated a coordinated, comprehensive and whole of government approach that listens to young people is a priority, where a full spectrum of services that are responsive to young people are delivered in places that young people live, learn and work.

“Flexibility in delivering services is key here. Services need to be evidence-based, youth friendly where they get the right care the first time,” Ms Millett said.

Both young people and health professionals preferred a move away from clinical care in a hospital setting to overall management of young people with suicide-related behaviour in the community.

Building capacity and increasing suicide prevention training in the community was essential, and this included developmentally appropriate mental health education and suicide prevention training in schools.

The report also recommended improved responses to young people with acute risk or who have attempted suicide, including providing a crisis response alternative to the emergency department for young people with suicidal ideation and behaviours, such as Youth Crisis Assessment Team.

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 kidshelpline.com.au; Lifeline 13 11 14 lifeline.org; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467

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