The Youth Affairs Council of Victoria (YACVic) supports the Victorian Government’s plan to give young people in some of Victoria’s most disadvantaged communities increased access to health care within their secondary schools.

“If a young person has a concern about their health, especially their mental health, it’s vital to encourage them to seek appropriate professional help – and to make this help easy for them to access,” said YACVic CEO Georgie Ferrari.

While full details of the program are yet to be released, the Victorian Government has announced plans to make GP services available to students in 100 state secondary schools from 2017 as part of the Doctors in Secondary Schools program. The initiative will focus on some of Victoria’s most disadvantaged communities, where young people might otherwise struggle to access timely, appropriate health care.

Under the program, schools will partner with local doctors who will attend the school one day a week for free student consultations. Further information on how the program will be rolled out is not yet available but YACVic hopes to see a collaborative approach taken that encourages safe, supportive conversations between young people and their families.

“For this program to work well, it will need very careful planning and evaluation, and it’s vital that parents, school wellbeing staff, teachers, local services and students themselves are fully engaged in this process,” said Ms Ferrari. “But if it’s well designed, the program has the potential to make a real difference to young people, especially in rural communities where current access to health services is often poor.”

According to Mission Australia’s 2014 Youth Health Report, young people have the highest incidence of mental health problems of any group across the lifespan, but less than a quarter of young people with a mental health disorder accessed a health service for it in the previous year. Schools can play a crucial part in bridging this gap, Ms Ferrari argued.

“When a young person has a problem, many of them turn to their school community for advice first of all,” Ms Ferrari said. “Of course parents expect to be the first point of call for their child’s health concerns. But as teenagers move into adulthood, it’s also important they learn where to go for help if, and when, their parents cannot provide this.”

For further comment: Georgie Ferrari, CEO Youth Affairs Council of Victoria , 03 9267 3711 or 0411 484 428