PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA: As a member of parliament you sometimes have stories told to you by constituents which are utterly heartbreaking and literally have you in tears in your office. This was certainly the case when Mr Praveen Ranjan came to see me with his brother last Friday. He informed me that in mid-May he found his son dead in his bedroom. His son had committed suicide. His son apparently gave no indication to his parents that he was upset, that he was sad or in any way depressed. From all accounts, he was a successful, bright and popular young 16-year-old boy. He was captain of the hockey team. He was one of the brightest in his school and potentially was going to be the school captain in the following year.
Mr Ranjan and his family are naturally devastated. They are dealing with something now that no parent should ever have to deal with. They have given me permission to raise their tragic story in the parliament in order to raise awareness about youth mental illness and its impacts. They are particularly keen to raise awareness amongst parents of youth with depression and the possible signs and how to interact and engage better with their children, particularly teenage ones. They also want to raise awareness amongst young people about the implications of their actions if they do take their own life: of the devastation of parents and loved ones left behind. Given his devastation and his wife’s devastation, I think they are being incredibly courageous in raising these issues publicly and I admire them greatly for it.
As you would be aware, youth depression and youth suicide are too common in our community. About one in three young people is estimated to suffer a mental illness at some stage before early adulthood. As a community we must do more to address youth mental illness. We need to raise awareness of its prevalence in our community and be more open in talking about it. In doing so, we must reduce the stigma associated with it so that all young people feel comfortable in talking about it and all older people can also feel comfortable in talking about it and not attach a stigma to it. We need to invest more in support services for our young people. I am particularly impressed by the Headspace Foundation and, as you might be aware, I am seeking a Headspace Centre in my electorate. Locally, I am also working with some of the other community leaders to promote the issue of youth mental health.
My heart goes out to Mr Ranjan and his family. As a parent, I can only imagine what they are going through. But hopefully, through their loss, they can make a difference to the lives of others. (Time expired)