Higher than average rates of mental illness and suicide in Mount Alexander Shire must be addressed, the local government says, following evidence of community concern.
A survey by the ELM Network, a Castlemaine-based suicide prevention group, prompted more than 480 people to call on the council to recognise suicide as an issue of community concern in future council plans.
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A draft of the council’s plan for the next four years, and its budget, will be available for comment from April 19 to May 17.
Mount Alexander Shire sustainable communities acting director Rebecca Stockfeld said the community raised mental health and suicide prevention as concerns during the public consultation period, alongside other health-related issues such as drugs and obesity.
“While the new council plan won’t be finalised until June, council remains committed to supporting the health and wellbeing needs of our communities, and improving access to mental health services to address the prevalence of suicide in the shire,” she said.
“It’s great to see the ELM Network undertaking research to ensure suicide is recognised as an issue of concern.”
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She said council worked in partnership with education, social support and health providers and community organisations to improve community resilience and wellbeing for people of all ages.
“Council acknowledges that the higher than average rates of mental health illness and suicide in the shire must be addressed,” Ms Stockfeld said.
The Mount Alexander Shire last year worked with Castlemaine District Community Health to deliver mental health first aid training to improve the wellbeing of young people.
The training was intended to equip parents with skills to help recognise emerging mental health problems or a potential crisis, and provide advice on the best course of action.
“The program has been expanded to deliver training to students and teachers this year,” Ms Stockfeld said.
More than 3000 people in Australia died by suicide in 2015.
The average annual rate of suicide in the Mount Alexander Shire is 20.4 per 100,000 people, compared with 9.7 as a state.
If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health difficulties, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.
In an emergency, phone 000.