Hawkesbury's need for a Headspace service takes the floor at Council Chambers

A need for Headspace services in the Hawkesbury region has been regularly discussed and with unique pressures being placed on young people, the discussion has been placed in front of council.

Councillor Sarah Richards put forward a motion at this weeks Council meeting, Tuesday, October 27, requesting that Hawkesbury City Council consider making a decision about it's support for a Hawkesbury Headspace.

Katoomba Headspace, the early intervention mental health service for 12 to 25-year-olds.

Katoomba Headspace, the early intervention mental health service for 12 to 25-year-olds.

Headspace is described as a one-stop-shop for young people who need help with mental health, physical health, alcohol and other drugs or work and study support.

It assists those aged 12 to 25-years-old and has over 110 Headspace locations in Australia, including Penrith, Katoomba, Lithgow, Mount Druitt, Castle Hill, Parramatta and Liverpool in Western Sydney.

Headspace is run through the National Youth Mental Health Foundation, funded by the Australian Government.

In the motion, Council were requested to:

  • Note that the drought, 2019/2020 bushfires, flood and the COVID-19 pandemic (among other factors) have placed pressures on young people's mental health in the Hawkesbury.
  • Write to the Nepean Blue Mountains Primary Health Network (NBMPHN) seeking their advice regarding the need to establish a Headspace in the Hawkesbury.
  • Receive this feedback from the NBMPHN and then enter into discussions with the NBMPHN regarding funding and location options.
  • Note that the Katoomba Headspace service in the Blue Mountains LGA offers outreach services for young people in the Hawkesbury.

The NBMPHN attended Hawkesbury Youth Interagency on October 20 to consult with youth services regarding a possible Headspace in the Hawkesbury, understanding that a unique model would be required for the Hawkesbury.

Cr Richards said that she had spoken with NBMPHN CEO Lizz Reay who enforced the idea that any conversation about funding they can get on record is important.

"This is a follow on from the Federal election last year," said Cr Richards. "Since securing funding for the Katoomba Headspace ... I've been saying that there is a need for a Headspace in this part of the Macquarie electorate, in the Hawkesbury LGA.

"The idea of the motion was to have the Council say 'this is the direction that we're going' with Headspace in the Hawkesbury. This is just another way for us to secure funding."

Cr Richards said that as a mum with young kids, including a daughter in year seven, she's learning with her daughter what teenagers go through in the modern world.

"With what young people are experiencing at the moment, bushfires, flood and the pandemic, we need to have the support there for them," she said.

"I want to make sure we have the correct facilities in place to support teenagers and those experiencing hardships as they grow up."

Macquarie MP Susan Templeman addressed Council for the first time since she became an MP, advocating for a Hawkesbury Headspace.

In her address Ms Templeman said that the 2019 assessment of the area's health needs highlighted high rates of suicide and self-harm among young people.

"The 2016 needs assessment identified increasing rates of suicide among youth," she said. "Yet not much changed in services available to young people in the Hawkesbury even with the clear and pressing need.

"Bushfires and COVID have heightened the need, and without a doubt young people as a group are facing among the biggest impact from the loss of social contact and limits on their life, with a real danger to their mental health. But our issue is longer running than this year.

"When the first Penrith headspace opened on June 30, 2013, it was a significant win for western Sydney, but was just the start of expanding the service to the Hawkesbury and upper Blue Mountains."

Ms Templeman said the NBMPHN and Parramatta Mission, with extra funding in the wake of the bushfires, are providing a "no wrong door" access for young people in the Blue Mountains and some bushfire-related outreach in parts of the Hawkesbury.

"NBMPHN simply don't have the resources to expand Headspace to the Hawkesbury in the way this community deserves," she said.