Western Australia needs to make children and young people's mental health a priority to alleviate suffering and build a brighter future for the whole community.
Speaking today at a Children's Week forum, Commissioner for Children and Young People, Michelle Scott said mental health disorders created the highest burden of disease in children under 18 in Australia, but only an estimated 25 per cent of child sufferers were receiving treatment.
"We have to act urgently to not only prevent or alleviate children's suffering, but to relieve the enormous burden on families, and health, welfare, education and justice systems into the future," the Commissioner said.
Child and adolescent mental health was the focus of the ‘Building Brighter Futures' forum, held at The University of Western Australia and attended by more than 150 community leaders and representatives from government and community agencies working with and for children.
UWA Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Robyn Owens, who co-hosted the forum with Commissioner Scott, said the University was taking seriously the challenge of ‘Building Brighter Futures' for young people by providing teacher education courses and engaging in new teaching and research ventures to address local and global needs in education.
"As well, we actively encourage and support young people who would not normally consider undertaking a tertiary education to consider studying here through our Aspire UWA and Follow the Dream programs," she said.
Australian of the Year Professor Patrick McGorry delivered the keynote address at the forum, jointly organised by the Commissioner for Children and Young People and UWA and supported by Lotterywest.
It examined gaps in and challenges for mental health services from pre-natal to adolescent mental health, as well as early intervention and prevention strategies.
"Now in its third year, this Children's Week Forum provides an opportunity to bring people together to discuss issues that have a significant impact on children and young people," Ms Scott said.
Other speakers at the forum included Mental Health Commissioner Eddie Bartnik, UWA Director for the Centre for Aboriginal Medical and Dental Health, Professor Helen Milroy, and WA Chair of the Faculty of Psychiatry, Dr Caroline Goossens.