Students from Pinjarra Senior High School have participated in a potentially life-saving mental health program, equipping them with vital skills to help themselves and their peers.
The engaging program, Having a Conversation about Mental Health, is run by Youth Focus and is open to year 9 students, parents and teaching staff at secondary schools across metropolitan and regional Western Australia.
More than 150 students participated in five workshops at the school on October 30 and 31, thanks to a partnership between Youth Focus and Alcoa of Australia that delivers mental health services to the Peel region.
The schools program is part of the Youth Focus mission to improve the mental health of young people and prevent youth suicide.
Suicide is the biggest killer of young Australians, with the latest statistics showing 51 young people aged between 15 and 24 took their own lives in Western Australia in 2017.
For every suicide, another 20 people attempt to take their own lives.
Youth Focus general manager for community engagement Chris Harris said community education was the cornerstone of suicide prevention.
“In Australia, one in four young people live with a mental ill health,” Mr Harris said.
“Research shows that 75 per cent of all mental illnesses first appear in people under the age of 25 so early intervention and creating supportive communities is paramount.
“Outreach programs in schools provide a critical conduit with young people that helps us raise awareness and understanding about youth mental health challenges.”
The Youth Focus schools program was set up in 2012 to bolster mental health literacy in school communities and was revised this year to include more progressive messages, including encouraging young people to talk to a trusted adult for advice and support when they are struggling.
“Through the Youth Focus schools program, we share important knowledge and skills so young people, parents and educators can recognise mental health challenges and deal with them before they become acute,” Mr Harris said.
“As a community we need to foster confidence in young people so they feel comfortable to start conversations about mental health with their friends and peers.
“Feedback we have received about our program has been overwhelmingly positive.
“It shows that young people understand the importance of having a healthy mind and are keen to learn how to improve their mental health and wellbeing.”
More than 6,000 students from 40 schools participated in the program last financial year.
Alcoa of Australia chairman and managing director Michael Parker said the company was proud to support these important services and the health and wellbeing of our young people.
The schools program is in addition to free youth counselling sessions offered by experienced Youth Focus clinicians.
If you or someone you know needs urgent support please contact the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.