Good mental health is everyone’s concern. We all want to have a ‘positive’ wellbeing, with most of us now recognising the dramatic effect our mental health can have on our physical health – both positively and negatively.
Yet all of us, at one time or another, are at risk of poor mental health or even mental illness. Daily life stressors or big life changes such as becoming a parent, ending a relationship or losing a loved one, can sometimes overwhelm us all. That is why it is so important that those struggling with their mental health don’t feel isolated and that they can access the services they need, when they need it.
In our region, mental health continues to be a key priority. Suicide rates have risen since 2013 and continue to be higher than the NSW average. We are second highest in NSW for reporting high or very high psychological distress. There has been a significant increase in the levels of psychological distress in people 16 years and older, and these levels are even higher for our Aboriginal community.
Yet, local consultations indicate that the actual incidence of suicidal behaviours and risk could be underestimated because our community is not sufficiently aware of the behaviours that indicate risk or how to support people who are at risk.
We know that mental health and suicide are complex issues that are influenced by a number of interacting psychological, social and cultural factors, and that it is important to take a holistic community centred approach. That is why we are committed to improving community awareness of the warning signs of suicide and how to access support; awareness of appropriate strategies for helping prevent suicide; and the connections for people at-risk, in particular those least likely to seek help.
This year, in addition to the suite of mental health services already introduced, we have commissioned Wesley LifeForce to deliver free community suicide prevention education and training workshops across our region during February, March and April. These programs will specifically target members of the community who may have a 'gatekeeper' role (eg teachers, sports coaches etc.) and will equip them with the tools to recognise and help someone who may be at risk.
I am pleased that the first of these workshops in Penrith has been so well received and was fully attended. I encourage all members of our community with an interest to sign up for this free and possibly lifesaving training.
Whilst we are proud of the work we are doing to improve mental health outcomes in our community, we recognise that there is much more work to be done and will continue to passionately advocate for additional mental health support in our region.
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