Tackling mental health head on

Moonee Valley City Council in Melbourne is rolling out a youth mental health program in local schools in order to train teachers, parents, carers and students on mental health first aid.

The program was designed by Council’s Valley Youth team, based on solid research and backed by experts and will be rolled out early next year.

The program aims to remove the stigma and misunderstandings about mental health by raising awareness and providing a safe but structured environment in which young people can have these conversations.

Moonee Valley Mayor Andrea Surace said selected Council staff would be qualified to train people who dealt with young people on a daily basis to recognise the signs of mental health.

“It is anticipated this training will allow young people and those people who are closest to them to be equipped with the skills and confidence to identify mental health concerns early on,” Mayor Surace said.

“This will help ensure that support is provided to get young people back on track and feeling well again.”

The training program is based on Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA) training, which is designed to give young people, teachers, parents and carers basic skills needed to identify a mental health issue, respond to the issue, and refer them to professional, specialised support where appropriate.

Council’s portfolio holder for Community Wellbeing, Councillor Jim Cusack, said Council had recognised a pressing need among young people for a program such as this.

“We know that when mental health is tackled at a young age, it can prevent illness and its impact on young lives down the track, which is why this program is so important,” Councillor Cusack said.

“Research shows that half of all people who experience a mental illness will have their first episode before they turn 18 and more sadly contemplate suicide, which is the leading cause of death for young people Australia-wide.”