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Review after tragedy

CALLA WAHLQUIST | The Examiner | Sept. 20, 2013, midnight

THE government has vowed to look into Tasmania's anti-bulling laws after the tragic death of a Hobart schoolgirl last week.

The family of the 15-year-old girl began calling for tougher laws after she committed suicide last Thursday.

A Facebook page set up in her honour had almost 12,000 likes last night.

Attorney-General Brian Wightman offered his condolences to the girl's family and said he wanted to reassure them that the government took the issue of bullying very seriously.

Mr Wightman said some forms of bullying were covered under the Criminal Code but he would look at what else could be done.

"I have seen the practice of bullying in schools in person, and it's very hard to control and it's very hard to stop," he said.

Community Development Minister Cassy O'Connor accused the Liberal Party of attempting to politicise the tragedy after opposition children's spokeswoman Jacquie Petrusma suggested that child protection could have been involved.

Ms O'Connor said that was incorrect.

"There is a devastated family here, there is a school community who are shattered, there are teachers who are broken- hearted," she said.

"We need to be sensitive."

Adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg said bullying was a serious issue but suicide could not usually be attributed to just one cause.

Dr Carr-Gregg said that suicide was almost always linked to mental illness, most often depression, and that feeling suicidal should be understood as a physiological condition that could be treated.

"It's a disease - there are about 160,000 young people in Australia at any one time with this disease," he said.

"The research suggests that kids who are bullied are three times more likely to have depressive symptoms than kids who aren't."

Youth suicide claimed the lives of 320 people in 2011, 75 per cent of whom were male.

Tasmania has the second- highest rate of suicide in the country of 14.1 people per 100,000.

Dr Carr-Gregg urged parents and friends of those affected by suicide to talk honestly about it and be on the lookout for warning signs such as sleeplessness, weight loss, tearfulness, irritability, being withdrawn and behavioural change.

Cornerstone Youth Services chief executive Cate Sinclair said the number of young people accessing Headspace mental health services in Launceston had markedly increased recently, pushing waiting times out to four weeks.

•IF YOU NEED HELP: Lifeline 131 114, Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.

Courtesy of The Examiner

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