Youth advocates have expressed grave concerns about services for the homeless, with many “struggling” to provide adequate support for those also living with mental health issues.
The Youth Affairs Council of Western Australia held a summit last week, to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day, with the aim of raising awareness about homelessness and mental health concerns among young people.
“When you think of homelessness, you think of homeless men,” YACWA ambassador Annabeth Bateman said.
“The fact is many homeless people are under 25.”
Census data from 2011 showed 9,572 people were homeless that year. Of those, 2,276 were aged 12 to 24, while 1,493 were even younger.
“80 per cent of homeless youths are diagnosed with mental health issues,” YACWA chief executive Craig Comrie said.
“The problem is that the homeless services are struggling to support the mentally ill.
“To make a difference, we need to make sure the homelessness sector can accommodate those with mental illness.”
WA Mental Health Commissioner Tim Marney said two strategies were currently being developed – one for suicide prevention and the other for youth engagement.
Mr Marney said “key action” areas of Suicide Prevention 2020 included public awareness, timely data and evidence to improve services, coordinated services to target high-risk groups and increased suicide prevention training.
Ms Bateman said more government bodies needed to voice their concern.
The recommendations of the summit are expected to be released in November.
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