The charity sector is working tirelessly to combat the alarming increase in the rates of mental illness among young Western Australians.
Following the latest statistics announcing the surge in mental health illness among young people in Western Australia, mental health charity zero2hero is working tirelessly to combat the increase in youth suicides.
In WA alone, 377 people took their own lives in 2022, including 39 young people aged between 15 and 24, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
zero2hero founder and CEO Ashlee Harrison, who lost her own stepfather to suicide, said losing lives to suicide can be prevented and causes immeasurable distress and heartache to families and communities.
“Sadly, suicide remains the leading cause of death for West Australians aged between 15 and 44,” Ms Harrison said.
“Each of these deaths is avoidable and represents missed opportunities for these young people to live full, happy and productive lives, not to mention the devastating ripple effect their loss has on family and friends.”
ABS data shows 57 children in WA aged between five and 17 lost their life to suicide in the past five years.
ABS data also reveals that for every youth suicide, there are up to 200 more attempts.
Mental health disorders have increased almost 50 per cent among young people over the past 15 years, according to the National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing.
“We know 75 per cent of mental illness presents before the age of 25, so education and early intervention is vital for young people,” Ms Harrison said.
“Suicide is taking more young lives than anything else. The problem is bigger now than ever before. It’s a huge issue that I don’t believe people are taking seriously enough.”
A mission to improve mental health
For the last decade, zero2hero has been on a mission to empower young people to positively maintain their mental health, impacting over 220,000 students.
“I'm proud to say zero2hero is helping to advocate change and eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness by building connections with young people and helping them navigate the ups and downs of life,” Ms Harrison said.
zero2hero’s wide range of school programs, leadership camps and fundraising events focus on early intervention and the prevention of mental ill health.
“At zero2hero, we facilitate programs that allow young people to connect with themselves and each other, to understand their needs and how to ask for help – before reaching crisis point,” Ms Harrison said.
“Through our programs, we are having real impact in improving the lives of young people and giving them the life skills and tools to ensure they can handle these challenges," she said.
“The way we engage with young people is authentic and real, and I am proud to say that it is working."
Last year, zero2hero engaged with 28,191 young people, trained 218 students in suicide prevention, provided 16,075 students with mental health education and reached 244 WA high schools.