Free crisis drop-in centre for young people opens at Westmead Hospital

Safe Haven service coordinator Matthew Gerts (back left) and lived experience peer workers Aisha Mohammed, Mitch Farrell, Maja Niksic and Alan Earls.

Western Sydney Local Health District has opened a youth-friendly drop in centre for young people in suicidal distress at Westmead Hospital’s Redbank House.

Called Safe Haven, the newly-opened space is staffed by peer workers with lived experience of suicide who offer compassionate care and support, with a special focus on supporting HSC students who have been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 restrictions.

The Redbank Safe Haven is one of twenty being trialled in NSW and designed to be a non-clinical and welcoming after-hours alternative to an emergency department.

Towards Zero Suicides peer worker Mitch Farrell is among the Safe Haven staff. He experienced an onset of anxiety and depression in high school, which led to suicidality and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I know for a fact that a service like Safe Haven would have made a huge difference for me as a young person,” Mr Farrell said.

All of us here are coming from a place of empathy, understanding and hope. We are here to listen and treat the person, not just the illness.”

Professor Vlasios Brakoulias, executive director of mental health at Western Sydney Local Health District, said the service would make a big difference to young people during a time of need.

“October is usually the peak month for youth mental health presentations and the pandemic has been particularly challenging for young people this year,” Professor Brakoulias said.

“We were proud to be able to launch this important service during Mental Health Month to provide a genuine alternative to the emergency department.”

Safe Haven is open 3:30pm-9:30pm Sunday to Wednesday for anyone aged 18 and under. It is located at Redbank House, Dragonfly Drive, Westmead – behind Westmead Hospital.

The service is free and no Medicare card or appointment is required. Free on-site parking is also available and you can call 0436 377 113 if you need directions.

Outside of these times, young people experiencing a personal crisis or distress can seek help immediately by calling 000 (triple zero), Lifeline on 13 11 14, the Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, or presenting at a hospital emergency department.

This youth-specific Safe Haven service will be available at Redbank House until a permanent Safe Haven opens for all ages in early 2022.

The NSW Government has invested $25.1 million in the Safe Haven model as part of the Towards Zero Suicides initiatives.