Youth parliament in session

Knox Youth Advisory Group (4)
The Knox Youth Advisory Group members Jay Beckerleg, Bahe Balamaheswaran, Madeline Anderson, Caitlin Robins and Sam Jelley.

By Afiqah Rozali

Knox Youth Advisory group have passed a Bill proposing to improve access to Victoria’s mental health care system for adolescents at the 2019 YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament.

Caitlin Robins, Madeline Anderson, Madeline Anderson, Bahe Balamaheswaran, Sam Jelley and Jay Beckerleg debated in the Legislative Council chambers on Monday, July 1 to make adolescent psychiatric wards more accessible to youth who suffer from severe mental illness at the annual event.  The group plans to achieve this by increasing the number of adolescent psychiatric wards in rural or regional areas throughout Victoria.

“Our Bill focusses on getting kids to services and reducing travel time that people have to take,” said Jay Beckerleg.

“One of the main things we want is two more psych wards to be built. We’re hoping to get one in Geelong and one in Bendigo because the main place people go if they’ve got really serious issues is they have to go right in the centre of Melbourne,” said Sam Jelley.

The Bill also proposes the Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS) provide transportation for adolescent patients living in rural areas so they can receive the care they need faster.

“I know people who drive to Box Hill who will take four, five hours to get there,” said Jay Beckerleg.

The DHSS will also be responsible for establishing a campaign and creating information kits to raise public awareness of adolescent psychiatric wards. 

Under this Bill all Victorian secondary schools, hospitals and mental health facilities will be required to distribute these information kits to their adolescent clients and students.

The Knox locals believe their Bill can change negative perceptions people have towards mental illness. 

“There’s an element of challenging the stigma and helping people to understand what an adolescent psychiatric ward would look like so they’re less scared or afraid and know what to expect if they were to go to one,” Madeline Anderson said.

YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament offers 120 Victorian youths aged 16 – 25 the chance for their voices to be heard at the highest levels of State government on a wide variety of issues. 

This article originally appeared on the Knox Leader, July 9, 2019.

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