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Gulaptis pledges action on mental health

Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis has pledged to work towards establishing a LikeMind centre in the Clarence Valley. “I will do everything I can to make it happen,” he told the NSW Parliament on March 10, following a meeting at the Grafton Returned Services Club on March 7, to discuss ideas on how to manage mental health issues in the Clarence Valley. The meeting, which was attended by more than 100 people, was called in response to news that there have been 11 youth suicides in the region over the past 12 months. There are reports of recent adult suicides, too. “LikeMind is a service for adults with mental health concerns, as well as their families and carers”, its website states. “LikeMind is a new way of providing mental health care by co-locating triage, assessment, care coordination and discharge planning services,” Mr Gulaptis said in parliament. “It brings together local partners that specialise in mental health, drug and alcohol, physical health and social needs, making sure people get access to the integrated help they need. “…A major strength of LikeMind is that anyone can walk into the centre without an appointment or a referral from a health practitioner or organisation. “I know that it is a model preferred by the Northern NSW Local Health District; and while it was unsuccessful with its expression of interest last year, I hope it continues to push for such a facility in the Clarence Valley.” There are just two of these centres operating in the state at the moment; at Penrith and Seven Hills in Sydney. Mr Gulaptis reminded the parliament that he “spoke on this issue in the House during Mental Health Month last October … after attending a specially convened meeting hosted by Skye Sear, the manager of the New School of Arts Neighbourhood House”. This meeting, too, was called in response to a spate of youth suicides. He commended the organiser of the March 7 meeting, Janita Cooper. “Although people suffering mental illness think they are in a vacuum [and] in a world of despair with no hope, they are absolutely wrong, and that was proved by the attendance at the public meeting on Monday night,” Mr Gulaptis told the parliament. “This is a community problem and it needs a community solution. Yes, we need mental health workers in the Clarence Valley and yes, we need a headspace centre [“the National Youth Mental Health Foundation providing early intervention mental health services to 12-25 year olds”] in the Clarence Valley, but that alone will not solve the problem of suicide. “Communities that have a headspace centre and extensive mental health services continue to experience suicides. This is a bigger problem than saying that the government can fix it. Mental health problems cannot be fixed overnight. ”It is glaringly apparent that early detection and prevention are equally important to having mental health services on the ground. “There is no doubt that we need services in the Clarence Valley for people suffering mental illness, but those services are simply treating the symptoms.” He cited a plan implemented in Scotland that “achieved an 18 per cent reduction in suicides” between 2002 and 2013, and called for a “whole-of-government approach [including the federal government] and a whole-of-community approach”. “Over the same period, Australia saw a 20 per cent increase,” he said. Mr Gulaptis said the Smile Program of school mentoring implemented at Woolgoolga High School could be a part of the solution. “The program was introduced to a select group of year 11 students who are identified as mentors for other students,” he said. “…We are told that Woolgoolga High School has had some positive results as a result of the program. “The fact is that kids do not want to talk to adults about mental health issues; they want to talk to other kids. “I am firmly convinced that if we are to deal with mental health issues before they end in tragedy we must start in our schools and embed it as part of the curriculum, not as part of the formal curriculum but more underlying and subliminal. “I am very pleased that the New South Wales Government is delivering more school counsellors to help promote and deliver wellbeing services to our kids. There are 236 new school counselling-psychologist positions and more than $51 million is available for wellbeing services.”