The tragic truth: why regional kids are taking their lives
REGIONAL youth are unable to access needed mental health services despite higher rates of mental illness and suicide than their city cousins.
A Griffith University study revealed 142 regional Queenslanders aged between 15 and 24 years killed themselves between 2011 and 2013.
The study found in regional areas 18 people aged 15-24 died for every 100,000 people. In remote parts of the state. that climbed to 52 suicides for every 100,000 people. In Brisbane, there were 14 suicides for every 100,000 people aged 15-24.
Experts have called for greater access to mental health support for regional youth - including through telehealth services.
The lack of services may also be increasing rates bills, with the Local Government Association of Queensland finding 44 councils spent $26million annually on "non-traditional" services, including mental health support.
The LGAQ said councils had attempted to pick up the slack following state and federal government cuts.
The organisation plans to lobby both governments to increase funding for better availability of and accessibility to rural and remote mental health services.
Youth support organisation Yourtown's Brendan Bourke said in-person mental health services were lacking in regional Queensland, with thousands of regional young people calling the company's Kids Helpline service every year.
Mr Bourke, client services head, said Kids Helpline received about 11,000 calls from young regional Queenslanders every year - about 40% of which were "complex counselling cases".
"In regional areas the services can exist but they aren't always available at the time they are needed, or if they are, they can cost a lot," he said.
"The services that do exist often then tend to be responding to issues rather than providing any early intervention."
Headspace Mackay centre manager Wayne Horwood said research showed 75% of adults who needed mental health support had suffered untreated mental health trauma before their 25th birthday.
Mr Horwood said helping young people with mental health issues could stop them from needing support as adults.
"Certainly, in rural and regional areas early intervention is crucial to helping young people struggling with their mental health," he said.
He said Headspace relied on government grants and corporate support to provide services aimed at helping struggling young people.
Earlier this week, the Federal Government announced a new Medicare rebate for video conferences with psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists.
The program will target rural and remote communities that do not have access to adequate mental health services.
Mr Bourke said an increasing number of young people were using Kids Helpline's online services.
"Ideally everyone who needed it would be able to access face-to-face counselling," he said.
"But realistically that just isn't possible, so we need to be able to offer the services that young people are going to be most comfortable using.
"There is a general trend among young people across the Australia that is increasing usage of web chat."
Mr Bourke said improving technology could provide the key to improving access to mental health support in regional areas. - NewsRegional
If you need help, phone Kids Helpline on 1800551800 or visit www.kidshelpline.com.au, or phone Lifeline on 131114.
WHAT WE WANT
Goal: Better mental health support for regional kids.
How to get there:
* Increased telehealth services to help regional kids with mental health issues.
* More accessible and affordable mental health services in regional areas.
* No cuts to existing mental health programs.