Scott Morrison pledges $2.8m for school-based mental health program

Scott Morrison promised $42m on mental health initiatives for young and Indigenous Australians in the election campaign.

 Scott Morrison promised $42m on mental health initiatives for young and Indigenous Australians in the election campaign. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Scott Morrison will announce $2.8m for a school-based mental health program on Tuesday, after pledging during the election to “break the curse” of youth suicide.

The funding commitment to preventative service batyr Australia, which was developed by a university student suffering mental ill-health, will allow the program to expand its online footprint.

Ahead of the announcement in Sydney, Morrison said the innovative approach of batyr focused on early intervention by using “safe and effective” storytelling in schools.

“This is a program for young people, designed by young people,” Morrison said in a statement.

“This will help batyr deliver front-line services and coordinate the right interventions for at risk young people.

“batyr and their approach is part of our vision for tackling the mental health challenges facing young Australians that is a key focus of my government.”

An estimated one in four young Australians aged 16 to 24 experience mental illness a year.

The founder of batyr, Sebastian Robertson, launched the service in 2011 after experiencing the “frustration and isolation” of living with a mental illness.

According to the service, seven out of 30 students in Australia will be dealing with a mental health issue, yet only two will reach out for support, leaving five “suffering in silence”.

Batyr, which translates as “hero”, is named after a talking elephant from Kazakhstan, with the service saying it aims to give a voice to the “elephant in the room” of mental health.

The health minister, Greg Hunt, said batyr helped deliver quality frontline support and coordinated interventions for people at risk.

“There are more pressures on young people today than ever before and we are committed to ensuring young Australians can get information, advice, counselling or treatment, when and where they need it,” Hunt said.

During the election, the Coalition pledged to spend a further $42m on mental health initiatives for young and Indigenous Australians, on top of $461m in the budget for mental health and suicide prevention.

Of the new funding, $22.5m will be spent on research grants to help find better treatments for mental health problems and $19.6m on the Indigenous advancement strategy to prevent suicide, particularly in the Kimberley.

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