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Monday, 21 February 2011
Page: 727

Mr TUDGE (9:50 PM) —I rise to speak about the urgent need for better youth mental health services in my electorate of Aston in outer eastern Melbourne. I raise this in the parliament because I believe it is one of the most urgent needs in my electorate. As you would be aware, Mr Speaker, mental health is a significant issue for many Australians, particularly for young people. It is estimated that a quarter of all young Australians will suffer from a mental illness, be it anxiety, depression or a substance abuse disorder, at some stage. Around one in 10 young Australians will experience an anxiety disorder in any given 12-month period. In Aston, the incidences of mental disorders are particularly high. They account for over half of the burden of disease and injury amongst 15-to-24-year-olds in Knox. Depression amongst men and women, anxiety disorders amongst women and suicide amongst men are all present at higher rates than the state average. We do not know why this is the case; we just know that the incidences are higher.

While the statistics paint a picture of the prevalence of the problem in my electorate, they do not reveal the anxiety, the pain or the loneliness that many sufferers face; nor do they reveal the sense of worry or hopelessness that a family can sometimes feel when one of their loved ones is afflicted by a mental disorder. No-one is immune to mental health issues, and there is barely a family member in Aston—or, indeed, in Australia—who has not suffered either directly or indirectly as a result of a mental health disorder.

There are already some outstanding services that cater for young people with mental disorders in my electorate, but more must be done. We need services that are tailored to young people, that are accessible in terms of location and price and that coordinate health providers. Youth services are particularly important. We know that about 75 per cent of mental health problems emerge before the age of 25. We also know that, when people suffering from mental health issues are given the appropriate care, medical treatment and support, they recover and can lead healthy and fulfilling lives. This must be our objective: provide appropriate services so that young people can access them readily and easily.

Health professionals that I have spoken to are particularly impressed with the headspace foundation, which operates mental health centres, known as headspace centres, in various parts of Australia. Headspace, as you are probably aware, was established by the Howard government in 2006. The centres offer a one-stop shop for a range of free services so that young people need not be referred from one health professional to another and be forced to re-tell their story. There is currently no headspace centre in the east of Melbourne, although there are in the south, the north and the west. I would like to see one in Knox, in my electorate, in order to address the issues that I have described.

In early April, I will be convening a youth mental health public forum at Fairhills High School in my electorate as a way of raising awareness of youth mental health issues and encouraging public input on how we can better address the issue. I will be hosting this in conjunction with Kristin Michaels, the CEO of the Eastern Ranges GP Association, and Chris Potter, the CEO of Knox Community Health. Both Kristin and Chris have expertise and a deep commitment to youth mental health in the outer east.

Mental illness is the No. 1 health issue amongst young people in my electorate. It can have a devastating impact on people’s lives if proper treatment is not provided. I want to ensure that adequate services are made available to young sufferers in the outer east of Melbourne. Their lives are ahead of them and I want to ensure that they have every opportunity to be the best they can be.