New mental health programs to support vulnerable youth at risk of suicide
(Southern Health News, September 2019)
New mental health programs support vulnerable youth at risk of suicide
Vulnerable young people at risk of self-harm and suicide will receive innovative therapy thanks to two new state-first treatment programs funded by Breakthrough Mental Health Research Foundation.
More than 100 young people aged 16-24 from across southern Adelaide will have access to the new group therapy programs – the first of which will use cognitive behaviour therapy to help those who have engaged in self-harm.
Alarmingly, about 20 per cent of young Australians engage in self-harming behaviours.
Southern Adelaide Youth Mental Health Service Clinical Lead and Psychologist, Susan Num, said the new program aimed to improve problem solving and coping mechanisms, and provide earlier intervention to young people experiencing thoughts of self-harm, suicidality, low mood and anxiety symptoms.
‘Many of these young people have experienced homelessness, family breakdown, one or multiple forms of abuse, exposure to drug and alcohol use, and some may even have forensic involvement - all of which mean they are often disengaged from study, have lost structure in their lives and have dwindling social supports,’ Susan said.
‘These experiences often produce overwhelming emotions, however such young people don’t have the skills to manage these or the ability to cope, and sadly self-harm and suicidal behaviours are increasingly common methods young people use to manage these feelings…without treatment, their distress, and self-harming behaviours will likely continue.’
Susan said the programs would support young people to develop healthy coping styles and effective ways of managing distress.
‘We hope this in turn will reduce the likelihood of ongoing self-harm and suicidal behaviour and also lead them to more engaging lives with their families, work, study and within the community.’
The 10-week group program was first trialled in 2017 with positive results but will now be improved to include additional sessions for family members or carers to attend, in an attempt to increase awareness and support the application of new skills in the home environment.
Funding will also enable the service to run a second intensive 25-week group therapy program, focused on helping young people who experience difficulties regulating their emotions. This program will include a family member or carer in each session and will aim to increase skills in mindfulness, improve tolerance of difficult situations and emotional pain, and focus on mood management and strengthening family and other relationships.
Breakthrough Executive Director John Mannion said the foundation was pleased to support programs such as this, which took strong action to improve youth mental health and curb suicide rates.
‘Right now, one in five Australians has a diagnosed mental health condition, and more people between 15-44 years are dying from suicide than any other cause.
‘I think we can all agree this is unacceptable and more needs to be done, so it’s great progress that young people in the south of Adelaide now have an opportunity to access these new and innovative programs.’
Both programs have been made possible thanks to a generous grant from the James and Diana Ramsay Foundation and will begin later this year.
The programs will be trialled for two years, with a research project in place to evaluate and measure their impact. If effective, the programs will be recommended to other treatment sites across South Australia to assist other young people and their families.