Opinion | Action needed to stop young deaths

LOST: The death of Amy "Dolly" Everett has highlighted the need for sustained efforts to support young people with mental health issues, the author says.

LOST: The death of Amy "Dolly" Everett has highlighted the need for sustained efforts to support young people with mental health issues, the author says.

The recent passing of Amy “Dolly” Everett has struck a chord across Australia, with thousands of people expressing their sadness over her death and sharing messages of support to her family.

Our thoughts are also with the Everetts, Dolly’s friends and the communities to whom she was connected. Much coverage about Dolly in the news and social media has focused on cyberbullying, shifting the focus from the loss of a young life.

The widespread exposure of the suicide of Dolly may have raised feelings of distress for some people. I would encourage anyone who is going through a tough time to seek support. Talking to a trusted relative or friend, a counsellor, GP, or online services such as Lifeline and eheadspace can help. It is important to recognise that suicide is rarely the result of a single event or factor and is a complex and multi-faceted issue. It is usually a result of a person feeling hopeless about life due to a combination of biological, psychological and environmental factors. It is heart breaking that any young person would feel like their only option is to end their life.

Emphasis should be on supporting young people who may be experiencing similar thoughts of hopelessness. We lose far too many young Australians to suicide and we need to ensure that young people are supported and have help available so that we can prevent further tragedies.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data released in 2016, again identified suicide as the leading cause of death for school-aged children. Each week we lose eight children and young people to suicide and as a country we need to continue to work together to change this. headspace School Support teams respond to suicide notifications every week in secondary schools across Australia. headspace will be expanding its work in schools as a delivery partner, along with Early Childhood Australia, for the new mental health education initiative run by beyondblue. headspace also has 101 centres across Australia providing mental health support services to young people aged 12-25.

In June 2017, the federal government announced that a new headspace centre will be opening in Katherine. Suicide rates of school-aged children in the Northern Territory are the highest in Australia. Young people in the Northern Territory die by suicide at more than four times the rate of any other state or territory, with many of these being Aboriginal young people. 

I would encourage anyone supporting a young person, as well as friends, to inform themselves so that they can recognise when someone might be going through a tough time. There are a number of resources available on the headspace website, as well as from many other organisations, that provide information and advice on mental health and other topics relating to young people’s wellbeing. With many young people heading back to school in the coming weeks, this message is particularly timely.

The need for sustained efforts to support young people with mental health issues is vital; because any life lost to suicide is too many. The responsibility to reduce suicide requires ongoing investment and lies with the whole community. In collaborative and supportive efforts, we can stop this tide of preventable deaths.

Jason Trethowan is the CEO at headspace, the National Youth Mental Health Foundation.

If you or someone you know is struggling, visit headspace.org.au to find your nearest centre or call eheadspace on 1800 650 890.