Grafton a mental health priority, says minister
FEDERAL Health Minister Greg Hunt has confirmed Grafton will be a "priority" in a new nationwide program aimed at youth suicide prevention.
The assurance comes following a segment on ABC's 7.30 program on Monday night, which documented family and friends of local teenager Emma Powell, who took her own life in December.
During an interview, Emma's father Michael said if he was speaking to the health minister he would tell him not to wait for the statistical report to come through but instead come for a drive and see these people in the community who were dealing with the critical issue on a daily basis.
In the studio, Mr Hunt told 7.30 host Leigh Sales he had accepted the offer, saying he would meet Mr Powell to view the Clarence Valley's mental health needs first-hand.
Yesterday he told The Daily Examiner he was looking to make good on his word "as quickly as possible" and said steps had already been made to arrange a visit to the region.
"I was planning, before last night, on coming to the region, but what this does is allows us to meet a little earlier and perhaps more directly with those affected," he said.
"There is simply no substitute for talking with affected families, front-line social health and suicide prevention workers.
"I've also been speaking with (Federal MP) Kevin Hogan and he's been a very strong advocate for the region."
Mr Hunt also said his visit to the Clarence Valley would coincide with more detail on the added support the trial suicide prevention program would bring.
"We are already working on the youth suicide prevention trial site and additional mental health support," he said.
"We will be coming with a focus on an area that has been deeply affected, in a way which I hope to be able to assist. We are just working through those details now.
"You can be guaranteed I am coming with additional support for the region."
On Monday night, Mr Hunt named suicide prevention as the single most important thing he could focus on in his new role as health minister.
"It's an immense privilege and responsibility (to be in this position) because health is arguably the only topic that touches every Australian.
Mental health and suicide touch an extraordinary number of people nationwide. It is far more widespread than I think is realised."
In confirming the NSW North Coast would be one of 12 trial sites for the suicide prevention program, he said that for each community, a different strategy or approach to the issue may be appropriate.
"It's about finding the right response for each area," he said.
"I will make a guarantee that in every one of these trial sites the goal is to improve services to reduce waiting times to make sure that we have better outreach."
If you or anyone you know needs help, contact Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800, or eHeadspace on www.headspace.org.au.
Lifeline is also available 24/7 on 13 11 14.