BEHIND the formalities of a youth mental health forum yesterday, another conversation was taking place.
About 130 students were at Albury’s PCYC to discuss mental health and take ideas back to their schools.
But at the lunch break, a group of high school girls spoke openly about the issue that had hit much closer to home — three young Border people taking their lives in the past two weeks.
While this was not raised directly at the forum, it was an issue the girls said “everyone” knew about because it was on Facebook.
And, unfortunately, it’s something the girls said they were all too familiar with.
“My dad lives in Sydney and he heard there how many teenage (suicide) deaths there are in Albury-Wodonga,” Abbie Radford, 15, said.
“I’ve known of five (suicides of young people) in a year and a half.”
The girls all agreed the community under-estimated just how many young people had contemplated or tried suicide.
They said in terms of young people they knew who had contemplated suicide, there were “too many to count”.
“It has to be talked about,” Jemma Hamilton, 15, said.
The youth mental health forum, run by Sydney company Rising Generations and partnered with Border health services, wasn’t there to specifically address the recent suicides, organiser Dale Skinner said.
The forum had an agenda it stuck to, talking about challenges, solution strategies, and working on destigmatising mental illness.
But Mr Skinner said if the issue of the recent suicides was raised, there were counsellors and services there to offer support and care.
The girls who gathered at lunch agreed the forum was a good way to learn tools to deal with mental health issues, that they needed those tools, and maybe needed to see more of these types of programs.
But they were equally adamant they did not want to see the issue of youth suicide, so widely and openly discussed on Facebook, ignored — or kept quiet — in the real world.
“If you keep pushing it away it’s not going to get any better,” Taylah McCrimmon, 14, said.
“Ignoring it isn’t helping ... nothing’s changing.”