Macedon Ranges Shire has won recognition for its commitment to improving the mental health of young people and the adults who support them.

Mental health training, support and education service Mental Health First Aid, MHFA, crowned the shire a ‘Champion Community’ for its action to combat a rise in mental health problems and suicide in the region.

Mental Health First Aid engagement coordinator Caillin Moore said Macedon Ranges Shire’s status as a Champion Community recognised its sustained effort to embed MHFA training into schools and the broader community via the Live4Life model.

Macedon Ranges introduced the Live4Life model in 2010 as a response to a reported increase in depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide in the shire.

Since then more than 4600 students in years seven to nine, 2300 students in years 10 to 12 and 700 adults have undertaken mental health education through Live4Life.

Macedon Ranges Shire Council youth services coordinator Vishal Tandon said council wanted to ‘create more supportive networks that young people could rely on’.

“This meant providing MHFA training to adults in key community roles, such as teachers, sports coaches, and local service providers. It also meant providing MHFA training to empower young people to play an active role in peer-to-peer mental health support,” he said.

“This recognition will support the ongoing implementation of Live4Life in our shire and promote the value of MHFA training for adults connected to young people throughout our community and for young people themselves.”

Instructors including school nurses, school psychologists, youth officers, health promotion officers, partnership brokers, and other community-based workers delivered MHFA training across a wide range of roles, experience and backgrounds in Macedon Ranges Shire.

Ms Moore said MHFA’s strategy responded to youth mental health issues at a critical time.

An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report in 2020 found about 20 per cent of young people aged 11 to 17 had experienced either high or very high levels of psychological distress.

Studies found adolescence was also a peak time for the emergence of mental illnesses and that suicide remained a leading cause of death for young people under 25, especially in rural areas.

Ms Moore congratulated Macedon Ranges Shire Council on its Champion Community status.

“By equipping young people with the knowledge, skills and confidence to recognise, talk about and safely respond to mental health problems we can empower them to help themselves and their friends,” she said.

“By further encouraging empathy and reducing stigma, we create more connected and supportive communities.”

For more information on Mental Health First Aid Australia is available at mhfa.com.au. To learn more about the Mental Health First Aid Champion Communities Program people can visit mhfa.com.au/champion-communities.

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