Election looms - Headspace centre for the Hawkesbury promised by Labor, and now the Coalition too
If anyone was in any doubt an election is looming, look no further than today’s announcement by the Coalition on funding for a Headspace for the Hawkesbury, 9 years after they first came to power federally and a week after Labor promised funding.
Just a week ago, Labor said they would commit to provide a Hawkesbury Headspace early intervention mental health service for young people if an Albanese Labor Government was elected.
Macquarie MP Susan Templeman said Labor would provide $3.6 million over the next three years to create the first Headspace centre in the Hawkesbury.
This morning – Thursday – the Coalition committed around the same amount - $4.4m over four years for a local Headspace.
Headspace offers young Australians aged 12 to 25 free or low-cost support for mental health, physical and sexual health, work and study, and alcohol and other drug use. The services are co-designed with and for young people to ensure that they are relevant, accessible, and delivered in a safe, confidential, and youth-friendly environment.
Although a Hawkesbury Headspace has been talked about before by the Coalition – who have been in power since 2013 - this is the first time it’s been included in an upcoming Budget, in this case as part of the Government’s $2.3 billion National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan.
Announcing the funding this morning alongside Senator Marise Payne and aspiring Liberal candidate for Macquarie, Sarah Richards, Greg Hunt, the Minister for Health and Aged Care, said young people had been affected significantly by the impacts of the COVID pandemic, and access to mental health services and support was more important than ever.
“We know that the pandemic and the measures taken to contain it have been incredibly difficult and stressful for many Australians, and particularly younger Australians. That is why we are prioritising mental health support, ensuring that young people have access to care to help them recover and thrive as we reopen the country,” he said.
It is estimated that one in four people aged 16 to 24 experience some form of mental illness every year and that 75 per cent of mental health issues develop before the age of 25.
The Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Network, which is run by Wentworth Healthcare, will be funded to run the new Hawkesbury Headspace.
Wentworth Healthcare CEO, Lizz Reay said of the announcement, “we are passionate about improving the mental health of our local communities and know there is a real need for ongoing services in the Hawkesbury area.”
Last week, Ms Reay welcomed Labor’s commitment to a Hawkesbury Headspace, as she did today of the Coalition’s announcement.
“Headspace services play an important role in supporting young people and their mental health. Hawkesbury youth have been through so much over the past few years, from drought to bushfires, a pandemic and multiple floods,” she said.
“These events have had a profound impact on our youth. We have been advocating for additional youth mental health services in our region for some time and are pleased that the Federal Government has listened to these concerns. The additional funding announced today means that we can set up an outreach service while we establish a centre, so we can start to help young people in the interim.” “Intervention programs such as headspace are critical as they not only impact young people’s lives in the present but can influence the whole community as these young people mature into adulthood. This service will be vital in supporting young people and their families, particularly as they move forward into their recovery journey.”
A Hawkesbury Headspace would mean that at last every local government area in the Nepean Blue Mountains region will have a Headspace, with centres already operating in Katoomba, Lithgow and Penrith.
Australians looking for support throughout the COVID pandemic can access the Beyond Blue Coronavirus Wellbeing Support Service any time via telephone at 1800 512 348 or online at coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au
Anyone experiencing distress can seek immediate advice and support through Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), or the Government’s digital mental health gateway, Head to Health (www.headtohealth.gov.au).
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