Macedon Ranges Live4Life program leads nation

Photo: Jamieson Murphy

A mental health program offered in Macedon Ranges schools is inspiring other councils.

Macedon Ranges council’s Live4Life program was last week awarded the 2017 Community Development (Organisation) award by Suicide Prevention Australia and is being used as a model for other rural councils.

The Live4Life program, which has been used in high schools since 2010, was nominated for the award by a teenage participant.

Program co-ordinator Pauline Neil said the award was great recognition.

“It’s a real credit to the community,” she said. “They have put their hand up to participate in the training and to support Live4Life wherever they can.”

“Our vision is that [the] Life4Life model be made available to all rural councils across Victoria.”

Live4Life was born in 2010 in response to an emerging need for mental health care among young people.

“In 2008, we lost two young men to suicide over one particular weekend,” Ms Neil said.

“We also had a reported increase in young people presenting with high levels of anxiety, depression and distress.”

Today more than 5000 students and 600 adults have participated in the program.

Live4Life educates year 8 students about mental health issues, then reinforces the program with leadership opportunities for year 9 and 10 students who help present sessions. Mental health first-aid training is revisited in year 11. The program points youth to 24-hour help lines and online services when they are unable to access support in person.

It also encourages parents, carers and teachers to invest in young people’s mental health through youth mental health first-aid training courses.

“We go through what [mental illness] might feel like, look like and sound like within them and their friends, and what to do with that,” Ms Neil said.

She said promoting youth mental health was particularly important in rural communities because immediate face-to-face support was not as readily available as in metropolitan areas.

“We have an issue in rural Victoria where if you’re living out in the back blocks of Lancefield, how do you get to Kyneton or Gisborne when you’re 16?”

Macedon Ranges council is the first in Victoria, and only the second in Australia, to win a Suicide Prevention Australia LiFE award for excellence in suicide prevention in the 14 years of the awards.

The success of the program has grabbed the attention of other councils. Benalla and Glenelg councils are both trialling programs modelled on Live4Life.

Macedon Ranges schools involved in the program are Gisborne Secondary College, Braemar College, Kyneton Secondary College, Sunbury and Macedon Ranges Specialist School and Sacred Heart College.

Anyone needing help can call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.