A petition on change.org starts with the sentence: My name is Curtis. I am 18, and suffering from severe anxiety.
Curtis Cloak started the petition because he is alarmed at what he says are the shocking rates of youth suicide, depression and anxiety in the community.
Cloake’s petition, which to-date has 53,035 signatures, has prompted local MP Justine Elliot to bring up the subject in Parliament. Yesterday she spoke about the urgent need for more support for young people to access mental health services in regional areas.
Curtis says his anxiety has stopped him doing a lot of things. ‘I dropped out of uni this year as a result of my mental health,’ he said on the petition page. ‘I tried medication, but it wasn’t for me. Regular sessions with a psychologist are making a huge difference to my mental health. However I am struggling to afford my ongoing psychology appointments.’
Curtis says he has spoken to so many people his age who are also struggling with their mental health and also can’t afford ongoing care. ‘That’s why I am calling for better access to therapy for young Australians.
Dramatic increase in the numbers
‘There has been a dramatic increase in the number of young people presenting at Australian hospital Emergency Departments for self-harm, stress and anxiety, mood, behavioural and emotional disorders.
‘You most probably know someone close to you who has been in this exact position.
Curtis says that on top of the ongoing youth mental health crisis, young people are experiencing income inequality, underemployment, and struggling to make a living wage.
‘The Australian Government needs to re-address the crisis of mental health in Australian youth, especially young people in rural and regional areas. We need to provide free psychology and psychiatric services to every young person in Australia, including remote areas.
Thinking outside the box
‘Our Government should also be thinking outside the box, and creating free services to engage our youth with mental health issues.
‘Why can’t we access professional online therapies for depression and anxiety disorders?
‘I would love for every young Australian with a mental health issue to be able to watch online videos and answer questionnaires designed to highlight destructive behaviour and how to avoid it. If we have questions or worries, we should be able to message a psychologist who would reply or call us back with advice or encouragement.
‘All of this should be free of charge.
Justine Elliot MP thanked local Curtis in parliament for his outstanding petition and his work in putting this issue on the national agenda. ‘We desperately need to have more mental health services and support for young people in our regional areas.
‘I have written directly to the Health Minister, Greg Hunt about this issue and forwarded him Curtis’s petition.
‘I have also raised this issue with many of my Labor colleagues including the Shadow Health Minister, Chris Bowen,’ said Ms Elliot.
‘We all have to work together to get more mental health services for our young people in regional areas. It’s up to all of us to get involved if we are to make a real difference.’
Local services aware of need
BYS Youth Worker Deb Pearse says that local organisations like the BYS are well aware of the need for increased mental health services in the local area.
‘Young people who suffer from anxiety, depression and other self harming behaviours need access to trained and supportive professionals to assist them in navigating a complex world,’ she said.
‘BYS is currently seeking a Safer Communities Grant to deliver Teen Mental Health First Aid Training in every high school in the Ballina state government electorate.
Mental health treatment plans
Curtis says that currently, if you are suffering from mental health and are on a mental health treatment plan, the government provides up to 10 Medicare-rebated sessions for psychological treatment. ‘For example, a consultation to visit a psychiatrist will cost you $143.85 after your rebate. The cost to see a psychologist after your rebate is $65. A lot of young people cannot afford to take care of their mental health. And what will they do after they have used up their 10 sessions? They then have to pay the full cost which is around $300 for the psychiatrist, or $150 for the psychologist – this is every time they have to see them.
‘My aim is to bring down the shocking rates of youth suicide, depression and anxiety by getting the government to step up and do more.
‘We need better free mental health care for young people. Please, sign and share this petition if you agree.’
You can vote for the Teen Mental Health First Aid Training project by logging on to https://mycommunityproject.service.nsw.gov.au by the close of business on the August 16.