Mental health community organisations have called for urgent funding from the ACT Government to help curb rising mental health problems with young Canberrans by addressing root causes.
The Youth Coalition of the ACT has called for more support for homeless young people, with data indicating that up to 3000 children aged between 15 and 19 are at risk of homelessness in the Territory.
An even greater number experience family conflict and are unsure where to go or how to access support.
In a submission to the upcoming ACT Budget, The Youth Coalition of the ACT executive director Dr Justin Barker said the ACT Government needs to focus on building residential care for at-risk children and young people.
Without a current facility in the ACT, people who are forced to stay in unsafe environments experience a higher risk of substance abuse, poor mental health, disengaging with education, and entering the youth justice system, he said.
Dr Barker wants the ACT Government to put aside $1 million a year for the Ruby’s Reunification Program, an in-house “therapeutic family counselling program that provides a safe place for young people to stay”.
“The ACT Government has already co-designed a residential site with Ruby’s staff and young people experiencing homelessness,” he said.
“The refurbishment of this site is currently under development.
“The next step is to procure a trusted service with a reputation for successfully working with young people and their families to decrease family conflict and youth homelessness.”
The Coalition also called for a further $800,000 a year to fund the Safe & Connected Youth Program, which provides early intervention to people under the age of 16 and their families to minimise the risk of youth homelessness.
In its ACT budget submission, the Mental Health Community Coalition ACT (MHCC ACT) also called for increased funding to address housing and homelessness issues that lead to poor youth mental health.
“Disadvantage and inequality are associated with an increased risk of many common mental health issues,” wrote MHCC ACT CEO Bec Cody.
Ms Cody also said more stable funding is necessary for services, with two in three community organisations not given funding assurance beyond 12 months.
MHCC ACT member organisations are having to cope with increased demand – with a 40 per cent increase “not uncommon” – on top of not being adequately funded to meet current demand.
The calls coincide with the release of new data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare which revealed a dire picture of ambulance attendance rates for suicide attempts and self-injury in the ACT.
The ACT had the highest rate of ambulance callouts for female suicide attempts, and ambulance callouts for suicidal ideation almost doubled between March 2018 and December 2020, according to the data.
ACT women were most likely to be thinking about suicide, while young women between the ages of 15 to 19 were most likely to be thinking about suicide or undertaking self-harm, almost triple their male counterparts.