Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention - Speech - 9 February

Read Assistant Minister McBride's speech at the Ministerial Summit on youth radicalisation.

The Hon Emma McBride MP
Assistant Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
Assistant Minister Rural and Regional Health

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Thanks for the opportunity to be here and to speak to this important issue from the perspective of youth mental health and wellbeing.

This item gives me the chance to share where I see a strong health agenda as being in complete harmony with a strong community safety agenda, because there’s no doubt that the risk and protective factors around mental health overlap with those relevant to radicalisation.

We obviously need to be careful not to assume a particular link between mental ill-health and radicalisation or extremism among young people.

It is true, some types of mental disorder may make someone more susceptible to going down a black hole online or becoming vulnerable to some other form of radicalisation.

This would typically be someone with a more severe diagnosis and for whom any number of clinical supports should be in place.

There is an important point of connection with law enforcement in cases where a person might be a risk to community safety.

I know there are partnerships around among different agencies around sharing threat assessments and coordinating approaches to care and risk management.

This is a really positive approach and I hope will be a theme of discussions today.

A key risk factor – both for mental ill-health and for radicalisation – is disengagement.

Disengagement from school, home, peer groups, family, other forms of social and emotional support.

There are of course other factors:

  • behavioural factors such as unhealthy diet, limited physical activity, poor sleep hygiene and excessive drug and alcohol use
  • psychological factors include low self-esteem, limited sense of autonomy, and difficulty with emotional regulation
  • environmental and social factors
  • and, of course, age.

In mental health across the age span we often talk about drivers of distress – those broader social and economic factors which can feed poor mental health: family breakdown, past trauma, substance addition and misuse, unemployment, poverty, housing insecurity, domestic and family violence.

All these drivers are risk factors for mental ill-health – among young people and adults alike.

Obviously not all risk factors can be avoided, so increasing protective factors is a key way to reduce the impact. 

Therefore, the protective factors we should pursue in supporting young people away from radicalisation revolve around engagement and resilience and mental healthcare which responds to individual circumstances and needs.

We see protective factors in positive role models, early intervention and treatment for mental ill health. Social engagement, safety in school and safety online are also key, noting the particular challenges that the online environment poses and our limited ability to influence the exposure of young people to dangerous material.

Resilience is a particularly important protective factor.

Resilience is developed by learning the social and emotional skills that help increase resilience.  

Other protective factors include:

  • positive cultural or community identity and connection
  • safe and supportive social and family connections
  • engagement in school and work
  • good health and sleep habits.

Finally, there is a key role for effective mental healthcare which responds to mental ill-health in the community.

Headspace is well-established now as a network of 157 centres on the way to 170.

It is the primary national platform for provision of services to young people aged 12-25 experiencing, or at risk, of mild to moderate mental illness.  

For any young person unable to attend a physical headspace service, eheadspace provides free, telephone and web-based support services. 

For such a big network and such a big public investment, headspace is a service we are always looking to improve, and accordingly have announced a funding review in the recent MYEFO process.

There are other free services too:

  • Head to health (aimed at adults but open to younger presentations)
  • Regional services commissioned through the Primary Health Network
  • ReachOut
  • This Way Up.

One thing I’m keen to take away today is any opportunities we have to strengthen the connections between those organisations providing support to young people at risk of radicalisation through the healthcare system.

I’m sure there is broad agreement that stronger protective factors are a common goal of all agencies involved here and we are always open to options to strengthen these.

Thanks again to Minister O’Neil for hosting this forum and for the many contributions we will hear during the day.

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