Parents for Change in South Australia is a group of volunteer parents focused on building capacity through information and support for parents of children with mental health issues and needs. They advocate for the parent voice and lived experience for children grappling with mental health emergencies, life issues and crisis events. They are an organisation fighting for a reform in the South Australian youth mental health system, and we support them.

Parents for Change aims to help parents support their children, including linking them with specialised help or access to targeted members of Parliament offices, lobbying to government for essential youth mental health service providers and working alongside NGOs and other philanthropic organisations to proactively campaign for better community services.

Co-founder, Anne-marie Taplin, and leaders Mahalah O’Malley and Melissa Gayler, have lived experience in managing youth mental health issues. They see major gaps in services for young people and families. The ‘missing middle’ is a technical phrase used about young people with sustained, complex mental health diagnoses, who often have nowhere to go for treatment and care.

“Parents for Change gives voice to the parents and their children let down by the youth mental health system. We began as a small group of passionate mums lobbying for critical changes to a system that regularly turns away suicidal young people from emergency departments, often with no support or referrals,” said Anne-marie.

In February 2022, RRMH CEO, Joe Hooper, who has himself experienced the lack of proper supports for children and young people, stood with Parents for Change on the steps of South Australia’s Parliament House.

“Our Rally for Change attracted hundreds of people impacted by this crisis – including mothers who have lost children to suicide after being denied mental health crisis care. Our petition for system reforms gathered more than 12,000 signatures in just a few months.”

“These are the systemic issues that we care passionately about – fairness, access and equity, parent voice and system reform. We see the system stressors and gaps, particularly the intersection of psychosocial and developmental disability, and poor mental health. Every child deserves an adult who will listen and support them to live without pain, and every parent deserves access to a caring health system that has their child’s needs at the centre.”

“We are a long way from seeing this, even with extensive evidence around the impact of trauma on emotional development and youth mental health; despite the impact of suicide on families and communities. Suicide is the leading cause of death among young Australians aged 15-24 years. We want to be part of change for the better.”

“We need a state mental health model that genuinely promotes early intervention at every age and stage – not just lip service, but concrete policies and resources so that young people in a crisis have somewhere to go to get help – BEFORE it becomes an entrenched social problem that costs the state vast sums of money, or before another young life is lost to suicide.”

The situation in urban areas across South Australia only gets worse the more remote you go, where we see increased hospital attendances with self-harm and higher mortality in the youth age group in a context of even poorer access to services. Parents need access to support and when needed, direct care for their children from a service.

Change starts with organisations like Parents for Change and RRMH rallying together, increasing the volume of our collective voices, and pushing those in power to do more for both rural Australians and those living in the cities. To respond to the mental health crisis, stop turning away those in need and save lives. Our postcodes may be different, but our needs are not and we should demand better from governments a all levels.