A "dire" need for mental health support for youth in Collie

Data released by the yourtown’s Kids Helpline which show suicide-related contacts had risen by 22 percent nationwide since 2012, with an eight percent increase in Western Australia.
Data released by the yourtown’s Kids Helpline which show suicide-related contacts had risen by 22 percent nationwide since 2012, with an eight percent increase in Western Australia.

Mental health experts in Collie say more counselling and psychology services need to be in the town for youth as the situation was “dire”.

The comments follow data released by the yourtown’s Kids Helpline which show suicide-related contacts had risen by 22 percent nationwide since 2012, with an eight percent increase in Western Australia.

Collie Family Centre program manager Sharon Thompson said Collie needs more services available for children and young adolescents because by the time a child turns 16 “the damage may already be done”.

“There is definitely a dire need in the Collie area, just the crisis of life increasing and issues that young kids have. I think that it is just going to rise if we don’t get someone in our community addressing these issues,” she said.

The Collie Family Centre offers free counselling services three days a week but can’t help children under the age of 16. 

“We can’t focus on children under 16 and in the last year or so we’ve had so many parents ringing up for children aged from 10 to 15 so we really want to break into that youth area,” she said. 

Unfortunately the centre can’t break into the youth area without funding, which is why Ms Thompson said the centre were hoping to apply for the $50,000 Bendigo Bank grant next month.

The centre helps teenagers 16 and above, the Child and Parent Centre provides support for children aged up to eight years old and Youth Focus provides a counselling service at Collie Senior High School for one day a week, for students only. 

Still with these services available in town youth are still having to find alternative measures to getting help, like travelling to Bunbury to receive any form of help, as too often appointments and spaces are limited and only offered on specific days. 

Amaroo Primary School chaplain Robyn Gillies said she has noticed an increase in the last five years with mental health issues in children. 

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years now and certainly in the last five years I have noticed a lot of anxiety in children, things they have no control over. Their parents, they’ve heard them arguing in the night and they’re worried they’re going to divorced,” she said. 

Ms Gillies said too often the chaplains were the “gatekeepers” and were there for the children who were struggling until someone else more equipped to deal with the matter could take over. 

“We keep them safe until someone can take over and I just would hope that someone would take over,” Ms Gillies said. 

Across the six schools in the Collie-Preston electorate chaplains have had 3,653 formal conversations with students.

From those conversations, 1,240 of them were referred to external agencies for help and 17 were placed into social and emotional programs like self-esteem and anti-bullying.

A total of 11 young people also accessed the Youth Focus counselling support through Collie Senior High School this financial year.

In addition, 140 young people, teachers and parents participated in Youth Focus mental health education workshops in Collie in 2015 and 2016.

A WA Country Health Service spokesperson said suicide was a serious issue among youth, which the service kept a close watch on. 

In the South West, suicide was the leading cause of death for 15 to 24-year-old males and females between 2006 and 2015, causing 19 deaths in the 2011 to 2015 period.

These figures are 1.4 times the state average.

The service was unable to release data from the last three years due to it not being ratified and confidentiality issues. 

yourtown chief executive officer Tracy Adams said while it was great that children and young people were reaching out, communities could still do more to save young lives.

“Suicide is the leading cause of death of children and young people in Australia accounting for more deaths than motor vehicle accidents. Accepting this statistic is simply not an option,” she said.

“Australia needs a specific, youth suicide prevention strategy. This means every state agreeing to a plan to oversee and coordinate activity to prevent and treat suicide that recognises children and young people are not just small adults. 

“Early intervention is key to prevention and to supporting lifelong mental health and well-being. This means delivering more outreach services and services such as headspace, a service currently inaccessible to children younger than 12.” 

  • If you need to talk to someone, call the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.