A mother who lost her 20-year-old son to suicide has pleaded for more investment in youth programs to tackle mental health.
Kerri McMillan made an emotional address at mental health forum in Victoria last night in Mornington in Melbourne’s south.
Hundreds turned out to the event in the bayside suburb, with organisers turning some away due to demand.
If you or anyone you know needs help:
Ms McMillan, a kindergarten teacher, lost her son Sam to suicide in 2011 just days before his 21st birthday.
She said too many other young lives are being lost.
“Six months after Sam died we lost another friend in that friendship group — unfortunately it’s way too common,” Ms McMillan said.
“It turns out some of his friends knew he was in trouble, [but] I don’t think it ever occurred to them he was actually going to kill himself.
“They probably thought there was a disloyalty about them had they come to me particularly and said they were worried about him, but in hindsight it could’ve saved him.”
His brother, 22-year-old Jake McMillan, said it was an unfamiliar concept for men his age to admit when they are struggling mentally.
“We pack our lunch in the morning, we go out, we do our thing, we play our sports, we build our walls we, destroy them and build them again,” he said.
(The World Today)
“The stereotypical activity of young people is to be out there partying, to be enjoying your life to have this kind of Instagram, Facebook ‘everything’s beautiful and peachy, how many likes I can get?’
“But the reality of that is it’s just a mask covering up how we’re really feeling.”
Local rates of mental illness ‘appalling’: advocate
Ms McMillan said she was worried young people did not know where to turn, and called for better tools to be available to help them cope with mental health emergencies.
She suggested something similar to a first-aid kit to help young people recognise warning signs before it was too late.
“Something as simple as giving kids somewhere to call, so they can get advice and help,” Ms McMillan said.
Research commissioned by the Mornington Peninsula Shire in 2012 found about a quarter of young people in the area experienced depressive symptoms.
Peter Orton from the community group Peninsula Voice said that number was concerning.
“Here we are on the Peninsula, we’re educated, we’ve got plenty of money — it’s not a money issue and yet we’ve got this high depression rate,” he said.
“I’ve got teenage kids. That’s an appalling figure that needs to be talked about.”
Mental health advocate Professor Pat McGorry told the forum the nation’s health system was letting down young people vulnerable to depression and anxiety.
“We’ve seen some innovation with headspace and early intervention program, but we haven’t seen a growth in investment, that we just don’t see in cancer and heart disease,” he said.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, who has been working with Professor McGorry, described the nation’s suicide crisis as “gut-wrenching”.
“I don’t think there is a more important national issue in my mind or on my watch,” Mr Hunt said.
“The question of mental health services and mental health support for young people in particular.”