“Unacceptable statistics”: Mildura team tackles mental health in light of disturbing figures

Chester Ngan

Mildura Rural City Council has passed a Bill through Youth Parliament, seeking to introduce a program that could potentially reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues among teenagers.

Their Bill, titled Mental Health Early Intervention in Secondary Schools Bill 2017, aims to provide school-aged teenagers with professional support to quickly identify and overcome any mental mental illness.

This comes after a recent study, conducted by the Black Dog Institute and Mission Australia, revealed that almost one in four teenagers met the criteria for being at risk of serious mental illness.

“There are a lot of issues surrounding mental health,” said The Hon. Emma Ash, a member of the Mildura team. “We believe that it was an important issue to bring up.”

The Hon. Phoebe Wilson explains that failure to seek help due to a fear of being judged is also an issue this Bill aims to tackle.

“We aim to reduce stigma around help-seeking behaviour and actually encourage students to see a mental health professional at an earlier age,” said Ms Wilson.

Their proposed Bill essentially requires all Victorian government schools to establish a program where students in years 10-12 will receive an annual half-hour, one-on-one check up with a qualified mental health professional.

PHOTO: The Hon. Emma Golding and her team seek to provide high school students with support to identify and overcome mental illness.

The Hon. Emma Golding explains that a key component of her team’s Bill is to quickly identify if a student is suffering from any mental health issue.

“The earlier you identify it, the more you learn how to deal with that issue,” said Ms Golding. “That way you can overcome it and have an overall better life in the long term.”

The government argued that the proposed program should not just run exclusively for students in years 10-12.

“We need to include all students in years 7-12, not just 10-12,” said The Hon. Sara Weir, a member of the Deafhood team. “It is important for all students to seek support, regardless of their age, to make sure that everyone’s needs and wellbeing are catered for.”

After an intense debate, the Legislative Council agreed that the Bill needed to be amended to incorporate all secondary school students.

“I was really in favour of the amendment for the change to the year levels,” said Ms Wilson. “The earlier that we can encourage students to seek help […] the better.”

The amended Bill has been passed onto the State Minister for Families, Children and Youth Affairs, The Hon. Jenny Mikakos, and will now be considered by the State Government.

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