NEW funding to boost training on mental health for youth workers in regional and rural areas across the State will improve the lives of thousands of young people across NSW, and likely prevent significant numbers of youth suicides, says the NSW Minister for Mental Health, Jai Rowell.
This week the state government announced it will subside the education of youth workers currently working across regional, rural and remote NSW, so they can undergo the Youth Mental Health First Aid course. The course educates workers on identifying, triaging and referring mental health issues.
Youth Action, the peak body for youth affairs in NSW, has been campaigning for $250,000 in funding for this issue for over a year.
Youth Action’s managing director Katie Acheson said the NSW government’s response was extremely welcome.
“This announcement shows the NSW government has been listening carefully to the voice of youth in regional, rural, and remote areas,” Ms Acheson said.
“There is a genuine mental health crisis in regional NSW.
"Mental illness rates and suicide rates have stayed high over the past 30 years, especially for young men. In some very remote areas, youth suicide rates are six times higher than the state average.
“In many areas, youth workers are the only people rural young people feel comfortable talking to about their issues. We know that educating youth workers on how to recognise and respond to mental illness is a powerful weapon in the fight against youth suicide.”
Studies undertaken by the NSW Department of Health in 2007 showed youth workers who had undergone the Youth Mental Health First Aid course were far more likely to be able to correctly diagnose a case of schizophrenia or depression, and were more likely to help someone experiencing a mental breakdown or mental health episode.
“The funding announced this week will not only change young regional lives - in many cases it may well save them,” Ms Acheson said.