Troubled teens are crying out for our help

IT IS a sign of desperation and despair that ripples through the community, leaving a wake of destruction for those left behind.

Every 10 minutes an Australian attempts suicide and parents are being urged to be on the lookout for the signs their child is considering taking their life.

New research shows that one teenager in each year 12 class across the country has attempted suicide, and even more youths - one in four - have some sort of mental illness.

One man who knows the pain and torment that envelope those touched by suicide is Warwick man Johno Felton.

Just four years ago Mr Felton was dealt a heartbreaking blow with the news his daughter, Michelle, had taken her own life.

On the outside, Michelle was an intelligent and ambitious 21-year-old, who was always happy to lend a helping hand to her university student peers.

Inside, she was battling demons her father said had haunted her since she was just a nine-year-old child.

"We knew there was something wrong with her mental make-up and the only thing to do is get to a good GP who will switch off the clock and listen to your problems," he said.

"There are good GPs and there are bad GPS; and there are good psychologists and there are bad psychologists.

"But you have to keep going until you find the good ones."

Half the battle was getting Michelle to help and the other was getting her to open up about what was haunting her. "In hindsight I can see she was like the textbook case of a person who commits suicide," he said.

"They're in the current going to the waterfall and you can throw them the first life jacket, which is counselling and then throw them the second lifejacket, which is medication.

"That will keep them afloat but it won't get them out of the river - the only way to do that is to find the cause of their problem.

"But Michelle wouldn't talk to us. She wouldn't tell us what was wrong."

Although he tries not to dwell on the "what ifs", Mr Felton said if he could turn back time, he would do one thing differently.

"I would have sold up here and gone to where she was at university so I could've been support for her," he said.

"But we don't do the blame game and the "what ifs" - you can't let them creep in because they will beat you."

Mr Felton's advice for parents who are concerned about their child's mental health is to be on the lookout for any behavioural changes.

Angry outbursts, changes in sleeping and eating patterns and a tendency to isolate themselves in bed are all warning signs.

"And just love them. Love them to death and get them to help," he said.

Headspace Southern Downs acting manager Sophia Lucas echoed Mr Felton's sentiments of being wary of behavioural changes and also encouraged parents not to dismiss any talks of suicide.

"I don't think suicide talk should ever be taken lightly and should always be explored with your child," she said.

"Try to keep the lines of communication open as much as you can, which can be difficult, and if you have concerns seek help. Go to the doctor, help lines, teachers, us at headspace or anywhere you can get advice."


Suicide help

  • Lifeline 13 11 14
  • Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
  • Parentline 1300 30 1300
  • headspace 4661 1999