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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5180

Mr HUNT (Flinders) (22:19): It is a great honour to be able to speak in this House at times about issues of deep and profound significance within each of our electorates. Tonight I want to address the issue of youth mental health. I have met at the grassroots level with those who have suffered from youth mental health issues, and of course I have had the great fortune and privilege to work with both Professor Patrick McGorry from the University of Melbourne and Professor Jayashri Kulkarni from the Monash St Vincent's mental health program.

Let me begin with some general statements before looking at the specific Mornington Peninsula youth mental health forum, which we are proposing, and then concluding with the push for a Million Minds initiative in relation to mental health. Right across Australia we are now at a point where there is growing awareness of youth mental health issues. In my own electorate that issue is emerging as ever more important. We all know, each of us in our own electorate, that mental illness can have a deep and profound impact on the lives of young people and their families. According to research, neglect of mental health problems in young people can cost Australia up to $30 billion a year. It is a profound disabler. It is not as obvious as many of the profound physical issues, but it can be equally debilitating, and people can live within the darkness of the soul.

Against that background I have had the honour and the privilege of working with Patrick McGorry on some of his early intervention programs. I think he has done great work, but there is an enormous amount more still to be done. According to Professor McGorry, in some cases in some areas at some time up to 50 per cent of adolescents suffer from some of the range of common problems, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, obsessive compulsive and personality disorders and—the fear of every parent—drug use. Fewer than half actually seek help.

Of course, the catastrophe at the end of everything is youth suicide. It is, sadly, still a major issue within our younger generation. Too often in the past—often for well-intentioned reasons—the true extent of this problem has been veiled in a shroud of secrecy. The politeness and the privacy, which were understandably the focus, have inadvertently hidden the issue and therefore in some cases may have prevented either the sufferers or those who are near to the sufferers from taking action. If a young person does feel suicidal, it is often the case that they are too frightened and in particular ashamed to ask for help.

We need to take steps by beginning, most importantly, with talking openly about the problem. In that context we will be holding a youth mental health forum on the Mornington Peninsula. We are doing that on 2 August at Dromana Secondary College. The forum will be aimed at year 10 and 11 students from across the peninsula and their parents. Students will be invited from Rosebud Secondary College, Western Port Secondary College, Somerville Secondary College, Padua College, Balcombe Grammar School, Flinders Christian College and, of course, Dromana Secondary College. We are very fortunate that Professor McGorry has kindly agreed to speak and preside at the forum. We want to encourage young people to speak about their experiences. We want to arm them with the way forward. The message is very simple: you are not alone, you are not to blame and support is available.

Beyond that I want to work towards the Million Minds program that Professor Jayashri Kulkarni from Monash St Vincent's has developed. This is the program aimed to ensure that by 2020 an extra one million people are able to receive assistance for mental health issues. It is about spreading the reach and about the task we have for our young people.