Ranges wellbeing advocate welcomes children’s strategy


By Oliver Lees

A mental health advocate is hopeful the federal government’s new children’s mental health strategy will help improve wellbeing outcomes in the Macedon Ranges.

Last week the assistant minister to the Prime Minister for mental health and suicide prevention, David Coleman, unveiled the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

The first-of-its-kind strategy plans to invest a total investment of $2.3 billion to develop a new integrated system of services for children aged 0-12 and their families.

“Half of all adult mental health challenges emerge before the age of 14, yet few children below the age of 12 receive professional support. As a nation, we need to acknowledge this and do everything we can to change it,” Mr Coleman said.

Youth mental health advocate Kyle Hayes said there was a definite need for the injection of such a strategy in the Macedon Ranges.

“It’s such a good thing. The more we can focus on mental health and can start and continue that conversation, the more we can bring the issue into the light,” Mr Hayes said, who works for an organisation delivering mental health information to local high schools.

Northern Western Melbourne Primary Health Network data from 2018 found the annual suicide rate in the Macedon Ranges (17 per 100,000) was well above the national (11 per 100,000), and state (10 per 100,000) average.

The data also indicated the shire to be the only municipality that was “significantly higher than the Australian rate”.

Mr Hayes said introducing mental health education at a younger age could help identify areas of concern before they fester into larger problems.

‘I think the education setting is such a big one. I don’t remember doing any lessons on mental health as a child, not until the early years of high school,” he said.

“Kids spend so much time in that [school] space, they really want that to feel safe and supported.

“The Macedon Ranges is such an interesting space because it’s still rural, but you’ve got areas like Gisborne that feel as though they fit into metro.

There’ still pockets that feel like small country towns and so with that comes stigma and negative attitudes.

But starting that conversation at a younger age, having mental health as something that is normal to discuss, then maybe we can bounce back from that.”

If you need mental health support, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, or visit the The Macedon Ranges Suicide Prevention Trial Site website: bit.ly/3jZl76k