A new mental health service run by Headspace has opened at Plenty Valley Westfield.

Funded by the Federal Government via the Eastern Melbourne Primary Health Network and set up by Headspace’s lead agency, Mind Australia, the service provides free mental health and wellbeing support to City of Whittlesea residents aged 12 to 25 years, three days a week.

Research shows that more than 75 per cent of mental health issues develop before a person turns 25, yet young people in the area can face wait times of up to eight months for access to ongoing counselling.

City of Whittlesea chair administrator Lydia Wilson said ensuring appropriate services were available locally to support young people’s mental health had long been a concern for council and the municipality’s health service providers.

“We are so pleased to announce the opening of this crucial service to support our young people,” she said.

“As our population continues to grow, the number of young people in the 15 to 24 year-old age group is forecast to double by 2041, to 48,000 so the need for these services is likely to grow too.”

A trial of Headspace services at council’s Baseline Youth Services space in 2018-19 demonstrated the significant demand for mental health services that not only met the unique needs of young people but were centrally located and easy to access.

“Local need has only increased due to the impacts of the COVID pandemic, with the effects felt especially by our young people whose worlds have been turned upside down in many ways, and at crucial and potentially vulnerable stages in their lives,” Ms Wilson said.

“One third of headspace Greensborough’s clientele are City of Whittlesea residents, which shows you that the demand for this service locally is substantial.”

Headspace Plenty Valley, operating out of council’s The Edge Baseline Youth Services, is designed to be inclusive and allow for young people to seek support for challenges related to their mental and physical health, work, school or study, alcohol and other drugs, and gender or sexuality.

The launch of headspace Plenty Valley coincides with Mental Health Week from October 9 to 17.

Mind Australia chief executive Gill Callister acknowledged the opportune timing of the launch.

“I am delighted to see the expansion of headspace services in the north east, with the opening of the new satellite centre in Plenty Valley,” she said

“The timing of this is critical – we know that the successive lockdowns are taking a heavy toll on the mental health of young people, and Plenty Valley is no exception.”