October is Mental Health Month, and it is over this month that we put extra emphasis on understanding and recognising mental health issues. Although it is important to reflect in this month, I implore everyone to extend their reflection outside of October. The signs of mental health issues can be hard to detect or even deliberately hidden, therefore mental health awareness should be something we think about on a day-to-day basis.
This year’s theme for Mental Health Month is ‘Learn and Grow’. My organisation, Youth Off The Streets has, and always will, encourage our young people to constantly learn about recognising and coping with various mental health issues. Our services provide psychologists, counsellors and trained youth workers to give our young people the best possible support that they so desperately need, but we still cannot reach every affected young Australian.
I have dedicated my life to helping the disadvantaged youth of Australia turn their lives around, and as such I have seen many of our youth struggle with a broad spectrum of mental illnesses. These illnesses are severely affecting our youth with a significant number of cases developing in to long term issues or even resulting in suicide.
Results released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate that of all deaths in 2015, 1.9% of them were suicides. This is an alarming number that shows we need to focus on the wellness of Australians. Young people are adversely affected, with suicide being the number one cause of death for people aged 15 to 44. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are twice more likely to die by suicide. Something must change, as a society we have to show care and support for young people in need.
Without continuous care and support, our young people run the risk of developing these long term issues and this is simply not something we can allow to happen. Using this opportunity to tackle mental health issues in young people is crucial, as giving young people support and coping mechanisms in such a transitional period of their life sets them up for a successful future.
Youth Off The Streets has, and always will, advocate for our young people in their battle with mental health issues. However, in this month I am calling for more to be done, I ask that we take this Mental Health Month as an opportunity to grow as a nation and stand by our young people.
Father Chris Riley
CEO and Founder at Youth Off The Streets.