Hamilton is set to receive a youth mental health centre as latest research indicates younger Australians are more susceptible to psychological distress than older age groups.
The federal government announced on Friday it would fund $2 million to Western Victoria Primary Health Network to establish a headspace service for the city. The grant formed part of the government's $2.3 billion investment into mental health and suicide prevention in its 2021-22 budget.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, one in five Australians aged 16-34 experienced high or very high levels of mental stress, double the rate of those aged 65-85 at nine per cent in the past two years.
In 2020-21, 17 per cent of Australians aged 16-85 sought professional help for their mental health. Only 13 per cent of people consulted their GP and eight per cent saw a psychologist.
Wannon MP Dan Tehan said the headspace centre would be critical for youth health in Hamilton and its surrounding areas.
"After the challenges of the last few years, looking after our mental health is more important than ever," Mr Tehan said.
"By providing easy access to expert support in a confidential, welcoming environment, this new headspace centre will play an essential role in keeping the young people in our community safe and well."
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Western Victoria Primary Health Network chief medical officer Dale Ford said Hamilton had been seeking improvements for its teenage and young adult mental health facilities for a long time.
"This announcement of a centre is quite exciting and will go a long way to help prevent mental illness and manage it in that age group before it becomes too severe," he said.
Mr Ford said Hamilton residents previously had to travel to other cities including Warrnambool and Portland to get access to headspace services.
"For people that have mental health issues, travel is often a big thing," he said.
"The age group also meant that they didn't have the means to travel."
He said he hoped the invested infrastructure would bring more psychologists and mental health professionals to the region.
The Hamilton and Alexandra College principal Andrew Hirst said it was an "enormous boost of confidence" to see the government invest in Hamilton youth mental health.
"We're delighted Minister Tehan has taken the time to invest and find solutions for what has been a dire situation for the town for the last five years," he said.
"There's much work to be done around how the money will be allocated, but the college looks forward to seeing the services on the ground which will make a meaningful difference to the mental health of our 12 to 18-year-olds."
"In the short term, there's been the commitment of five visits to Hamilton per week by headspace, of which we're delighted."
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