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Mental Health - Ku-ring-gai Youth Mental Health Forum

Mr MATT KEAN ( Hornsby ) ( 18:20 ): Today it is my pleasure to talk about an issue that is close to my heart. In my inaugural speech I spoke about Mike Powell, a young and promising member of the Northcott Young Liberals Branch. Mike was an intelligent and compassionate young man who was loved by everyone around him. Mike was only 18 when his life was cut short by suicide—our biggest killer of women under 34 and men under 44. Research shows that most suicides are preventable and it all starts with a conversation. What I want to talk about tonight started with a conversation. What was initially a small meeting in my office between several local charities, including the Ku-ring-gai Youth Development Service, Lindfield Rotary, Hornsby Council and Ku-ring-gai Council, eventually saw more than 180 students from across the Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai local government areas coming together to destigmatise and speak openly about mental health and to create and build programs and campaigns within their school communities that promote positive mental health and wellbeing. This was the inaugural Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Youth Forum, an initiative that responded to growing concerns about youth mental health in the local area.

The forum is designed to raise awareness about mental illness amongst teenagers, helping them to identify the signs and to gain an understanding of what help is available in their local communities. The day encompasses a variety of positive and inspirational high-energy activities and includes the opportunity to hear from young people who have lived with a mental illness. The Youth Mental Health Forum has welcomed some incredible young speakers, including Nic Newling, a young man who not only experienced a mood disorder throughout high school but also lost his brother to suicide, and Jeanti Profaca, a young woman who found her purpose through speaking about her experience of mental illness.

Students also have the unique opportunity to ask questions of many professionals, including members of the NSW Ambulance Service and NSW Police Force, practicing psychologists, counsellors and general practitioners. Every year, as I sit and listen to the questions, I am reminded how incredible our young people are, and how much they love and cherish those around them. The questions range from how to help friends and loved ones to access health services, to what goes on during counselling sessions and the rights and liberties of young people to manage their own affairs.

Most importantly, the day also focuses on the creation of positive campaigns and strategies to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and resilience. During the day, accompanying teachers are able to upskill themselves in how to become staff leaders, help their students reach their potential and create incredible things within their school community. Together with their teachers, students become pioneers, with strong and capable support networks at an administrative level. The true power of the Youth Mental Health Forum lies in our young people and our local community. The Youth Mental Health Forum would not exist without the young people who are changing the face of mental health. In 2013 Cheltenham Girls' High School students, including Kimberly La, Jessalin Goh, Emma Mees and Eugenie Jung, attended the forum and established Cloud 9, the school's leading mental health group, which meets weekly to foster positivity and support for students and staff of the school.

As these girls have completed their Higher School Certificate, their legacy is nothing short of unbelievable. Throughout the school year, the girls celebrate Childhood Day, and the Year 12 Stress Rescue Packs. Their R U OK? Day initiatives have raised hundreds of dollars, and they have endless resources from ReachOut and headspace, which they distribute to their classmates. Mentoring programs and peer support are critical to helping girls to connect and be a part of an incredible supportive and loving community. This year, three years later, girls from Cheltenham Girls' High School inspired attendees with their mental health initiatives, helping other students realise how they, too, can help change their school communities.

None of this would have happened without those who worked behind the scenes to make it all possible. Because of the incredible work of the Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Youth Network, the Youth Mental Health Forum has helped more than 1,000 young people in our community. The Youth Network is a unique interagency group comprising more than 20 youth organisations that strive to provide betters lives and futures for young people across Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai. Today I pay special tribute to several people who have worked night and day to make the Youth Mental Health Forum happen: Kym Carlson of the KYDS Youth Development Service, Bob Howe and Ian Faulks from Lindfield Rotary, Jeni Hayes, Julie Acton and Vanessa Aldridge of Mission Australia and Taldumande, Tai Luani from headspace Chatswood, Dennis Mageropoulos and Jason Guest from Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai Council, Nasrin Azizi from Settlement Services International, Trudy Wilson of Diocese of Broken Bay, Stacey Young of NSW Health and Phillip Stone of Northern Sydney Primary Health Network.

It would be remiss of me not to mention my personal staff member, Elizabeth Goh. She is an incredibly impressive and decent person. In fact, she has been a driving force. She has helped me to turn my vision of helping young people in our community deal with mental illness into a reality. She is a remarkable individual and she has a great future ahead. This year has yet again been a phenomenal year for young people. In the Youth Mental Health Forum we have celebrated through song and dance, and we have helped to forge a brighter, mentally healthy generation. Mental health remains an uphill battle but I see a very hopeful future in the Hornsby Ku‑ring‑gai Youth Mental Health Forum.

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