Kids Helpline: Increase in children needing urgent mental health advice

Bridget Brennan reported this story on Monday, April 20, 2015 12:56:00 on ABC News' The World Today

Now to the 24-hour youth help service that's reporting a huge spike in the use of its emergency services.

Kids Helpline Bridget Brennan interviews Chief Executive Tracy Adams

Kids Helpline says its counsellors are now making more than twice as many emergency interventions as they were two years ago.

BRIDGET BRENNAN: The National Mental Health Commission says 600,000 Australian children between the ages of 4 and 17 are affected by a mental health problem every year.

Tens of thousands of those children make a phone call to get help.

Increasingly, they're calling with an urgent concern, like suicide.

Tracy Adams is the chief executive of Kids Helpline.

TRACY ADAMS: Last year we had more than 1,600 of those such cases and they're primarily related to young people calling who were in immediate harm, either through child abuse or who were undertaking a current suicide attempt.

BRIDGET BRENNAN: Over the last two years, more and more children's counsellors are reporting serious calls, which need to be referred to emergency services.

TRACY ADAMS: Well, the counsellors obviously have to make a very critical assessment of what's required at that time, and they'll obviously keep working with the young person as a number one priority and then, and behind the scenes there's a lot of work done to connect either with emergency services, ambulances, police, child safety officers.

BRIDGET BRENNAN: Tracy Adams says most of the 70,000 children calling Kids Helpline are worried about a family dispute or abuse.

TRACY ADAMS: Family relationships is the top concern for young people, for 5 to 12 year olds.

So we know that young people really worry and care about their family and often speak to the counsellors about their concern.

BRIDGET BRENNAN: The Federal Government released the National Mental Health review of Australia's mental health sector last week; the Health Minister Sussan Ley received the report in November.

It recommended more targeted support for vulnerable children.

It says there's been a big investment in teenage mental health, but not enough preventative mental care for children under the age of 12.

Associate professor Jane Burns is the chief executive of Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre in Melbourne.

She believes more online and e-health services should be funded for children's mental wellbeing.

Listen to the interview below. Alternatively, for the full transcript please click here.

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