An innovative youth mental health service in the Peel region could provide a “safe haven” for young people who are feeling suicidal or experiencing mental health distress.
The Peel Youth Safe Haven Café project has been supported by WA Health through the Future Health Research Innovation Fund, providing an initial grant of $50,000 to lay the groundwork to establish the service.
The Safe Haven Café model has operated successfully in other states and there are similar services for adults in Perth and Kununurra, but this will be the first of its kind for young people in Western Australia.
The project, led by Telethon Kids Institute, will co-design the café and services it provides with young people in the Peel region, in partnership with Youth Focus, GP Down South and other community stakeholders.
The co-head of Telethon Kids Institute’s Embrace program, Professor Ashleigh Lin, said the Safe Haven Café could provide young people with a safe, comfortable and non-threatening environment to get support during a crisis and access follow-up services.
“This is an innovative way for us to divert young people away from the emergency department, so this could be a real game changer,” she said.
“We plan to co-design the Youth Safe Haven Café with young people to provide a model of care that will be best practice internationally and we’ll measure the outcome of the youth safe haven café to see if we can reduce hospital admissions and ultimately the number of young people who die by suicide.”
The Peel region has a youth suicide rate that is twice the national average.
Youth Focus Chief Operating Officer Angie Perkins said the Youth Safe Haven Café could give young people a path to access clinical care, as well as peer support from other young people with lived experience of mental health challenges.
“Our young people need as many opportunities as possible to engage with services and we’ve got a duty to do everything in our power to come up with solutions to support them to be well in our community,” she said.
GP Down South Business Development Manager Eleanor Britton said once the project is up and running, it could extend to other locations around Peel.
“We envisage that our mobile health service will become an extension of the Youth Safe Haven café and we’ll be able to take regular sessions out to Pinjarra, Waroona and maybe even out as far as Dwellingup” she said.
“The Youth Safe Haven café will be a soft entry point for young people who can then be linked with other services.”
The youth-led co-design of the Safe Haven Café will ensure the service is welcoming and safe for all young people, including Aboriginal young people, LGBTQA+, members of the multicultural community and young people with disabilities or neurodiversity.
Professor Lin said there was not much global research on how to best co-design these types of spaces, so the process will be a valuable research exercise.
“There’s no handbook on how to best design these spaces, and young people really are the experts,” she said.
“We‘ll be led by them on what this space should look like, what sort of facilities they need and that will be a valuable asset for services all over the world who want to create spaces that young people will want to go visit to get help.”
GP down south is an exemplary not-for-profit community organisation. We have been providing health and wellbeing services in the Peel regions and the South West of WA since 1994.