IMPROVING SUPPORT: Central Highlands Regional councillor Gai Sypher.
IMPROVING SUPPORT: Central Highlands Regional councillor Gai Sypher. Kelly Butterworth

Petition to bring Headspace to Emerald gains momentum

A PETITION garnering support for the creation of a Headspace mental health service in Emerald is gathering momentum, with more than 1000 signatures collected in less than a week in a collaborative effort by the region to improve support and outreach to young people.

The Central Highlands Suicide Prevention Group, which meets monthly, decided at their last meeting to lobby the Federal Government via the petition for a Headspace centre to be based in town but that would also provide support through the region.

Headspace - set up as a "one-stop shop” for young people seeking help with mental health, physical health, alcohol and drugs - has more than 100 centres around Australia, with each one reflecting the needs of its local community and driven by its young people.

The meeting - attended by Central Highlands Regional Council, Anglicare, Federal MP Ken O'Dowd's office, Catholic Education, the Neighbourhood Centre, Queensland Health, Central Highlands Health, Emerald State High School, CTM Links, and representatives who have experience with mental health issues - looked at setting up a structure of support to encourage and allow young people to seek help.

Councillor Gai Sypher, who was at the meeting, said two groups had already been organised: a Family and Friends group and a Youth Reference group aimed at "giving youth a voice” and a platform for organising youth events.

She said the meeting allowed various stakeholders to investigate how they could better collaborate on youth issues.

"The services often work in isolation of each other and at the meeting the agencies decided they need to work together,” she said.

"As a whole of community we've got to come together.

"We've got to start empowering the youth to find resilience within themselves and that is the important issue.

"We can guide them but really you've got to find that within yourself and that is something we've all got to start working together to do.”

She said it was also important to allow young people - aged 12-25 - to be part of future plans for support ideas and programs.

"There are a lot of programs out there and if we were to get Headspace here, where it's a drop-in centre for the youth, it could be a safe space for the young adults and it could be driven by them,” she said.

Cr Sypher said young people "need someone they can look up to”, which could include others who have battled mental health issues but found a way forward and could share their experiences in the safety of a Headspace environment.

"You relate a lot better to someone who's been in the same situation,” she said.

"It's got to come from the heart. And that's what we're missing - the heart. We've got to show people there is a way through.”

She said one of the main issues in the region was a lack of information about available services and a Headspace centre would be able to offer help as well as details on where and how to access it.

"The Headspace building would be in Emerald but there needs to be an outreach service from that to go into smaller nearby communities,” Cr Sypher said. "The problems are based on issues across all communities, regardless of population, and an outreach service was identified as a must.”

Emerald Neighbourhood Centre, with director Jeanelle Horn and Community Connect co-ordinator Amanda McNamara, this week said they supported the bid for a Headspace in Emerald.

"We want to come together with the community to achieve great support, education and services for our youth and young adults,” they said.

The petition for a Headspace can be signed at change.org - search for "Central Highlands: Headspace office to be established in the Central Highlands Region”.


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