health

Teen suicide in Australia is a "national emergency".

This Christmas didn’t feel like Christmas for the Powell family.

Emma Powell, 16, in Grafton, NSW went missing on December 19. She had been battling depression for four years. The night before, her parents had taken her to hospital because their daughter had “a turn”. She was sent home and told by the hospital that a mental health worker would call the following day.

The following day came and, after filling out the uniform order forms for her new job at McDonalds, Emma left the house in the family’s 4WD with the dog, Indie. Her body was found four days later.

“We were working out whether she needed a size 10 or 12 uniform,” Emma’s mother, Shannon Powell wrote for the Daily Telegraph.

“All I can say is that she must have been in a terrible place when she left. She was so happy and joyful, but when she was down she was all consumed.”

Emma Powell, 16, took her own life just days before Christmas. Image via Facebook.

The Powell family is not the only family hurting this holiday season. Far, far from it.

2016 showed us the true damage of depression and mental heath issues in Australia.

In 2016, we learned the suicide rate in Australia is the highest it's been in 10 years. The Causes of Death report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed 3,027 people died from self-harm in 2015. That's more than eight people every day. One person every three hours.

We learned suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44, and that Indigenous Australians are four times more likely to die by suicide than non-indigenous Australians.

We learned the suicide rate for young Aboriginal men is the highest in the world.

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In 2016, we saw, the effects of online bullying on the mental health of young people. Among the victims was Stuart Kelly - the brother of one-punch victim Thomas Kelly - who ended his life after being bullied and receiving death threats through social media, being held somehow responsible for the lock-out laws in Sydney.

Stuart Kelly, 19, suicided in July, 2016. Image via Facebook.

In 2016, we learned the number of suicide deaths in woman and girls is rising. For the longest time, the rate of suicide in males has been much higher - up to three times higher - than it has been in females. Now, however, we've learned there's been a 26 per cent increase in suicide deaths among young women over the last five years.

In 2016 we saw the dangers of schoolyard bullying and homophobia. When 13-year-old Brisbane boy Tyrone Unsworth took his own life, we questioned whether the school knew he was being bullied - assaulted with a fence paling after school one day - and what it could have done to stop it.

We know 61 per cent of young people who identify as LGBTIQ report verbal abuse, and 18 per cent report physical abuse.

We know that knowing the numbers is not making much difference - young people are still seeing no way out.

Tyrone Unsworth was only 13 when he took his life in November, 2016.
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Emma Powell's mother has called for increased awareness. She wants to see a more productive, more proactive conversation around mental health in Australia.

"A change in our culture and the way we view mental health is required," she wrote for the Daily Telegraph. "People need to discuss mental health with each other, talk to their kids about it, ask them how are they feeling and really listen, share the stories of their pain and the pain of their children."

Her daughter was a student at Grafton High School and one of six teens from three high schools in Clarence Valley, in rural New South Wales, to take her life last year. The charity Lifeline has called it a "national emergency".

“It is very easy to get it wrong, and so we are working through this in a way that we hope will make a difference,” Lifeline North Coast chief executive officer Allister Donald told a public meeting on December, 12. “Every time there is a death, everybody feels it. It is not just here in the Clarence Valley. This is happening across Australia. It is a national emergency.”

Awareness. Suicide prevention programs. Listening. Love. All are important, Shannon Powell says, in preventing more deaths. Making sure this year sees a drop in deaths by suicide, as opposed to further increases and higher peaks. There is too, to much at stake.

"I don’t want Em’s death to be for nothing," she wrote. "There are children out there screaming and no one is listening. We should rethink how we share concepts such as love and community. Previously this was done through ­religious education and everyone was on the same page, but times have changed and children have changed and we need to find the way to reach them."

"Communities across Australia are losing their children at a shocking rate and we as a society seem to be numb or ignorant to the impact," she continued. "This is the real tragedy."

If you or a loved one is suffering with depression, Mamamia urges you to contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or to visit the Beyond Blue website.

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