Lifeline stretched to their limit

YOUTH mental health has been pushed to the forefront of the Clarence Valley's consciousness with services on the ground stretched to their limit trying to support struggling youths.

Lifeline North Coast CEO Alistair Donald has seen first hand the damaging effect that mental health has had on our youth and said Lifeline was trying its hardest to support those in the Clarence Valley on its limited funds.

"It is quite a harrowing time in the Clarence Valley, and on the North Coast at the moment," Mr Donald said. "The big thing for us at Lifeline to try and get through to everybody is that we are a charity and our resources are stretched.

"But in saying that, the best thing about Lifeline is that the service is as close as the nearest phone."

Mr Donald said a recent spate of youth suicide on the North Coast has become rather alarming with the Lifeline representative pushing to increase programs in the Valley and into North Coast schools.

"It is at that stage where there is a lot of

concern for the youth in our society," Mr Donald said. "We do run Safe Talk, which is a suicide related program that is presented at schools, but we have found that schools are not always willing to host the program. "The feeling among the schools is that if you talk to the kids at school about suicide, it gives them the idea that suicide is the only option out. It puts them on that path.

"But our research has proven that it is not the case, in fact they learn more that suicide is not the only option and the grief that it leaves behind."

Mr Donald believes a community-wide action program is the best way to combat the issue of the rising number of suicides among the youth.

He has begun to lay the groundwork of this program, but said it could be quite a way off.

"One thing that has been high on my to-do list is to try and get a whole of community action program together," he said. "But this is such a big issue that a small organisation like ours can't do it alone.

"I have spoken to the Lifeline Foundation group to get something in the works. This is a serious issue, and I believe we need to just take the covers off and get on with a community action. Get the schools involved and get the police involved.

"It is something we are hoping to get done in this month."

Mr Donald said that the issue of stigmas surrounding mental illness was something that people needed to leave behind.

"This is something that should never be regarded as a stigma issue. It is a concern for health."

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