Albany school suicides spark mental health services response

Tim EdmundsAlbany Advertiser
Illustration: Don Lindsay
Camera IconIllustration: Don Lindsay Credit: The West Australian

Counselling services have been deployed to Albany schools in the wake of the tragic loss of two boys who took their own lives at the start of the new school year.

The response by counsellors from Youth Focus and headspace comes as the demand for youth mental health services in the Great Southern continues to rise.

Youth Focus, which provides free counselling to West Australians aged 12-25, has supported 3653 young people in WA in the past financial year.

This figure represents a 20 per cent increase when compared with the previous 12 months.

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Youth Focus chief executive Arthur Papakotsias said the organisation had deployed added resources in Albany after the two deaths.

“Youth Focus is saddened by the tragic loss of two young people in Albany in recent weeks and has acted swiftly to support the local community at this difficult time,” Mr Papakotsias said.

“As part of our postvention program, we have deployed professional Youth Focus and headspace counsellors to work with students and school communities at St Joseph’s College and North Albany Senior High School.

“This is in addition to the ongoing valuable counselling service we provide at North Albany Senior High School and other Great Southern schools and office locations.”

Mr Papakotsias said Youth Focus was also working in conjunction with the Albany community as part of the recently formed Great Southern Suicide Prevention Action Group.

He said the organisation was seeking local education opportunities to raise awareness and share important information about how best to support young people who may be struggling.

“Sadly, we are seeing an increase in demand for youth mental health services,” he said.

“As a community, we must do all we can to turn the tide on these heartbreaking statistics.”

Headspace Albany manager Andrew Wenzel said early intervention was paramount.

“It’s normal to feel scared or panic, or to want to avoid talking about suicide, but being brave and opening up conversations with someone you are worried about shows them they are not alone,” Mr Wenzel said.

“If someone confides in you that they are feeling suicidal, don’t agree to keep it a secret.

“Tell them you are concerned about them and that you are there to help.

“Don’t assume that the feeling will go away by itself or that the person will seek help themselves.

“Offer to help someone you are concerned about make the first steps towards linking in to professional assistance, such as headspace Albany or Youth Focus.”

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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