The Bega Valley Regional Galley was a splash of orange on Wednesday as the Bega Valley Suicide Prevention Action Network launched its seventh Mental Health Month in vivid colour.
October brings a full calendar of events promoting community involvement and communication to reflect this year’s theme for Mental Health Month, “share the journey”.
The launch focused on the rollout of youth mental health service Headspace, expected to be operational in the Bega Valley within a year.
The program is being developed by South East NSW Primary Health Network, Coordinare. The PHN’s suicide prevention coordinator Peter Murray has established Headspace in other locations and, as a Bega local, is eager for its arrival to the region.
“Rates of suicide and self harm have remained stubbornly high over the last decade, and rates on the South Coast are consistently higher than the national average,” he said.
Mr Murray said the success of Headspace depends on strong collaboration.
“We see great examples of suicide prevention across Australia, but too often they operate in isolation,” he said.
“This is not about doing new things, we are identifying what works and implementing these evidence based strategies in a localised area.”
Mr Murray said communities that share their journey of combating suicide rates on a local level benefit mental health services on a sate and national level.
SPAN patron and Federal Member for Eden-Monaro Mike Kelly has facilitated this, demonstrating an idea from Bega Valley Medical Centre GP Duncan MacKinnon to policy makers in Canberra.
“They are using a combination of social media and nurses to work with high school counsellors and dealing with mental health confidentially and in a safe space for our youth,” Dr Kelly said.
He congratulated SPAN for creating a village approach to mental health, which has encouraged the community to take ownership of the issue.
Key events on the Mental Health Month calendar include the annual Walk With Us community walk on October 28 and the Remembrance Motorcycle Ride on October 29 will raise funds for SPAN support services.