Ms JO HAYLEN (Summer Hill) (16:50:14): Last month I was pleased to host an Inner West Youth Mental Health Forum at Petersham Bowling Club. The forum was an opportunity to learn more about the pressures young people face and the scale of the challenge we face together. It was also an opportunity to consider both in policy terms and practically how we can best help people with moderate to complex mental health issues. The statistics tell a really tough story. One in seven young people aged four to 17 years experience a mental health condition in any given year. Half of all lifelong mental health problems begin before the age of 14 and over 75 per cent of mental health problems occur before the age of 25.
Most alarming of all is that only 31 per cent of young women and only 13 per cent of young men with mental health problems seek any professional help. Suicide rates among young people are the highest they have been for over a decade and now account for around one‑third of all deaths of those aged 15 to 24. The rates of mental health and suicide among Indigenous young people is significantly higher than among non‑Indigenous young people. Young people in regional communities, LGBTIQ+ people and young women are all disproportionately affected by mental health issues.
The forum shone a light on the important and transformative work being done to improve youth mental health across New South Wales. The speakers included amazing community leaders such as Jono Nicholas, who is the founder and managing director of the Wellbeing Outfit. Jono is a passionate advocate for how technology can help young people with their mental health pressures. He gave some practical tips to members of the forum audience. As a father he spoke about the practical ways we can help build resilience in our children.
The young person and speaker on our panel was Neha Manandhar, who is the program co‑ordinator at Batyr, a preventative mental health organisation that runs specialist programs in schools and universities. Neha spoke powerfully about the need for peer-to-peer support in destigmatising mental health and she reiterated Batyr's top five tips for looking after yourself and your mates: Look out for signs that your mate is having a tough time; get talking about mental health; engage in active listening so your mate knows you are there for them; reach out and connect to professional supports; and take charge and control of your own mental fitness. I thought they were fantastic tips and she spoke about them so passionately on the day.
Our final speaker was Carmel Tebbutt, the now CEO of the Mental Health Coordinating Council, the peak body for community mental health organisations. Carmel shared her years of expertise and experience and articulated why governments need to invest in services to bridge the "missing middle", which is something we have heard about from Professor McGorry and others. At the heart of each of their contributions was a simple message: One of the most powerful tools we have is connection. We need to reach out and let other people know that we are there for them. That is so incredibly powerful in itself. To be able to refer young people to quality and well‑resourced services is key to dealing with this large and complex issue.
In the inner west young people are well supported by headspace in Ashfield, the Gender Centre in Petersham, Youth off the Streets, Twenty10, the Marrickville Youth Resource Centre, Rosemount Good Shepherd, as well as the PCYC and other excellent local organisations. But they cannot do it on their own. They need resources and leadership from the Government. To its credit, the New South Wales Government has signalled it will invest in student welfare and mental health in schools. This is incredibly important and we need to expand the capacity of the existing services. The Government has indicated it will set up an eating disorder hub. It will also support kids and families through the drought hardship, and we know the severity of that.
At the last election Labor put forward a raft of important and transformative policies, including ensuring additional counsellors, psychologists and student support throughout our high schools and providing mental health first aid training to public school principals and senior staff to better assist students and colleagues. We want to train mental health outreach workers in regional New South Wales. Most importantly, we need to look into how we can help our mental health system across the board. We have not had a parliamentary inquiry into this issue since 2001 and this needs to happen now. We would also like to ban gay conversion therapy and tackle the bullying and isolation felt by our LGBTI community. There is so much we can do in this space. I was very proud to host an excellent conversation in Sydney's inner west recently to support our young people.