Help on the way for youth mental health
MORE help is arriving for Grafton youth mental health with extra funds, an extra deputy principal for the high school and "high-level training" for teachers.
The Clarence Valley has lost three male and four female teenagers to suicide in the past 20 months.
But it is not alone - the increase in funding follows a warning from researchers that self-harm is increasing across the country.
In a rare move by the Department of Education, teachers at Grafton High School have been given "additional high-level training" in student health and wellbeing while a new deputy principal has been rushed in to stem the tide of student self-harm and suicide.
Grafton High School principal Peter South outlined the plans in a newsletter to parents after the suicide of student Emma Powell in December.
"Even students not closely connected to Emma may find that events like this can bring up feelings of grief, sadness and loss related to other experiences in their life," he said.
"As a result of the difficult emotions that can occur, it is important to closely monitor vulnerable young people, as their risk of suicidal thoughts or behaviours may increase."
Mr South said the deputy principal's focus will be on increasing the school's capacity to support student mental health and wellbeing.
"We have also been fortunate to fill a number of student support positions over the past six months," he said.
The school's funding is in addition to 236 new school counselling and school psychology positions that the department has created across the state.
Clinton McGrail-Skinner was another student from Grafton High who took his own life.Emma Powell, 16, was the third Grafton High student to die by suicide since Clinton McGrail-Skinner in June 2015.
Of the seven victims, three were from Grafton High School, two from Maclean High School and two from South Grafton High School.
Following a campaign by The Sunday Telegraph, Health Minister Greg Hunt announced in February $3.5 million over four years for youth mental health service headspace to open a centre in Grafton.
Mr Hunt said the centre will be opened "within a few very short months".
The federal government is also providing $600,000 for suicide prevention initiatives, including a child psychiatrist who will offer services twice a month.
The state government is funding a rural adversity mental health program worker based in Grafton.
Griffith University Australian Institute for Suicide Research and Prevention researcher Garry King said 10-20 per cent of young people self-harm at some stage.
"We definitely know from much anecdotal evidence that self-harm is on the increase across the country, and that awareness of the issue has been greatly heightened with the prevalence of the digital age," he said.
"This is also an extremely frightening issue for parents on many levels."
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