Youth Affairs Council Victoria’s submission to the Royal Commission into Mental Health, Beyond Access, released today, is the first comprehensive, dedicated report focused on the unique mental health experiences and needs of young people and the youth sector in rural and regional areas.

 “Mental health issues overwhelmingly emerge before the age of 24. Half of all lifetime mental health disorders present by age 14 and three quarters present by age 24,” says Katherine Ellis, YACVic CEO.

“So it is vital that young people in rural and regional Victoria who are experiencing mental ill-health can get help when they need it.

 “This extends far beyond access.  It includes other contributing factors prevalent in rural and regional Victoria such as homelessness, stigma around mental health issues, and lack of dedicated services for young people from marginalised groups.” 

23 year old Jennifer Rowan from Camperdown, who co-facilitated the consultations says the strengths-based approach of our submission made young people and youth workers feel welcome and safe.

"Talking about mental health can be very vulnerable, and each of our participants were generous in sharing their personal experiences at the consultations with their game faces on," says Ms Rowan. 

"Having experienced poor mental health at times myself, I feel hopeful about the change that young people are pushing to make happen."

Over 200 young people and youth workers contributed their expertise to the submission by Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic), which generated 49 recommendations to improve the mental health system and mental health outcomes for all Victorians.

 These recommendations covered areas including but not limited to:

  • the prevalence of mental health issues emerging at a young age and the opportunities to better support young people in rural and regional areas;
  • the strengths of rural and regional communities in supporting young people;
  • their desire to be involved in creating a better mental health system;
  • the importance of mental health promotion, prevention and addressing factors that contribute to mental health issues in rural and regional areas;
  • the opportunities to improve the capacity of communities, education services and families to better support young people in rural and regional areas;
  • the extremely limited access to mental health services in rural and regional areas and their desire for higher-quality services that are better-coordinated;
  • the effect of stigma associated with mental illness and the urgent need for strategies to reduce that stigma;
  • the prevalence of suicide in rural and regional areas;
  • the impact of homelessness on the mental health of young people;
  • the specific experiences of young people with disability, Aboriginal young people, culturally and linguistically diverse young people and LGBTIQ+ young people in rural and regional areas and the intersectionality between mental health, disability, culture and identity.

One of the key recommendations is for the Royal Commission to facilitate a dedicated hearing and develop a discussion paper with young people, including those in rural and regional Victoria.

 “The Royal Commission’s outcomes must include a specific focus on how to effectively support young people, so it is important that the process involves listening to and acting on the unique experiences and expertise of young people,” says Ms Ellis.

"It only makes sense to include young people in decisions that are relevant to them. If the mental health system is going to change in Victoria, we need to ensure that it is relatable to young people from all walks of life," says Ms Rowan.

Media Contact:

Thomas Feng, YACVic Media and Communications Manager, 0431285275

Katherine Ellis, YACVic CEO is available for comment.

Young members are also available for comment.

Further information:

YACVic heard from these communities: Alexandra, Bairnsdale, Ballarat, Bendigo, Camperdown, Charlton, Geelong, Hamilton, Horsham, Inglewood, Kyneton, Koroit, Macedon, Melbourne, Melton, Murrindindi, Portland, Swan Hill, Robinvale, Warrnambool, Wodonga, Woodend, Wycheproof and Yarra Valley.

YACVic’s community consultations were conducted in Camperdown, Hamilton, Melbourne, Portland, Robinvale, Swan Hill and Warrnambool.

About Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic)

YACVic is the peak body and leading policy advocate for young people (12-25) and the youth sector in Victoria. YACVic recognises the different challenges and unique insights of rural and regional communities. That’s why YACVic Rural expands our state-wide advocacy for young people in regional communities and the rural youth sector, we currently have two locations across the Great South Coast and Southern Mallee regions.