Governments must expand mental health and drug treatment services for young people

Governments must urgently expand mental health and drug treatment services before it’s too late, the Ted Noffs Foundation has said, warning that official data showing skyrocketing numbers of Victorians accessing crisis support signals the beginning of a national crisis.

Noffs, Australia’s largest provider of drug and alcohol treatment services for young people, warned in August that demand for crisis services would increase as the collective trauma of COVID-19 took its toll.

We have been waiting for these types of  trends to present themself, and sadly our predictions were right. What we are really seeing here is a broad community’s response to trauma. When we find ourselves in a traumatic situation, we crave safety, predictability and certainty in order to recalibrate and survive."

Kieran Palmer, Clinical Service Manager at Noffs

“But for many Australians, Covid has ripped away these vital safety nets.

“These risks extend beyond mental health alone. Increases in drug use, alcohol consumption and crime, including domestic violence, are also trademarks of population-wide trauma.

“Our services in NSW, Queensland and the ACT are already seeing the impacts of COVID-19. For many young people we work with, their home is not happy or safe. As soon as restrictions are enforced, these young people are trapped in a frightening and traumatic situation.

“The risks for marginalized young people to disengage and turn to drugs or crime are very real. But the government has a golden opportunity to invest in the future health of Australians.

“Specialized drug, alcohol and mental health treatment, especially at the early intervention level, are the most reliable and cost-effective means of turning young people’s lives around. It’s far more expensive to wait for a young person to turn to crime, then send them to gaol.

“But when waiting lists are long, or you have to travel long distances to access support, the likelihood for a successful outcome decreases.

On average, Ted Noffs Foundation programs see participants:

  • Reduce suicidal thoughts by 30%
  • Reduce cannabis use by 50%
  • Reduce methamphetamine use by 70%
  • Reduce crime by 66%

“Governments across Australia absolutely need to prioritize funding in this area, so that services like the Ted Noffs Foundation can continue to reach as many vulnerable young people as possible, before these problems get worse and spiral out of control,” says Mr Palmer.

Services like ours need the ongoing opportunity to provide programs that make a real difference and do our bit to help Australia recover from this pandemic."

Kieran Palmer

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The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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