Suicide rates rise elsewhere but Valley may be on the mend
Suicide rates rise elsewhere but Valley may be on the mend

More work to be done, but we're 'faring better'

SUICIDE rates continue to rise across the country with the latest report revealing a 9.1 per cent increase.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2017, 3128 people died from intentional self-harm compared to 2866 in 2016.

This made it equal with 2015 on the highest rate in the past decade.

For South Grafton psychotherapist and mindfulness master John Shearer, these rates come as no surprise.

But, when it comes to Clarence Valley youth, he's confident things have turned a corner.

"Youth suicide has definitely dropped here and that's thanks to the efforts of good things happening in schools now," he said.

"If we can teach the little ones how to handle difficult thoughts, feelings and emotions then those are skills for life."

Mr Shearer said the tragic spate of youth suicides during 2015 ignited a positive movement within the Valley.

"I remember that first community forum in 2016 where hundreds of people turned up and now we have things like Headspace and Our Healthy Clarence who are doing great things," he said.

As such, Mr Shearer said other communities had been looking to the Valley for advice.

"Kempsey are going through a similar bad time that we had and now they're looking at the Our Healthy Clarence model to try and improve the mental health of their youth," he said.

And while Mr Shearer welcomed the announcement in the recent Federal Budget of a crucial funding boost for youth mental health, he hopes it is invested wisely.

"When the community was outraged after the spate of suicides here in 2015 I noticed everyone just wanted to fix it.

"But I believe the focus is totally on prevention and that's the way the funding should be used," he said.

For support, phone Lifeline Australia 13 11 14