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Published Friday 12 April 2019
Tags:General, Media Release

State of Mitchell's mental health

Although we are only at the beginning of our rapid growth, our communities are already experiencing limited access to crisis and ongoing mental health support services.

One in 15 people in Mitchell Shire report high or very high psychological distress – this alarming statistic is higher than the Victorian average.

Mitchell Shire Mayor Councillor Bill Chisholm said this campaign was a crucial step towards staying ahead of increasing mental ill health statistics in Mitchell Shire.

“Part of Mitchell Shire’s Federal election advocacy campaign is to highlight the significant work our local mental health service providers do, yet more funding is needed to improve these services to cut down on wait times and help our residents receive support,” he said.

“Lack of access to appropriate and accessible services is evident as Mitchell Shire is presenting with increasing rates of youth mental health issues including anxiety and depression, attempted suicide, substance use as well as disengagement and withdrawal from formal education.

“We’ve recently received funding from the State Government for a new youth services hub in Wallan. To ensure the hub can operate to its full potential, we now need Federal funding to facilitate the ongoing operation for this mental health service.

“According to the latest data, just 46.5 per cent of Mitchell Shire residents feel valued by society. This is one of the lowest numbers in Victoria. People also report high levels of mental stress which is at 14.8 per cent of the population.

“We are at the beginning of our rapid growth and already our communities are experiencing limited access to health and human services. The lack of services forces vulnerable people to seek appointments further away with significant wait and travel times.

“Mental health is close to home, but help is far away. Something must be done now.”

To sign a postcard or to let candidates know what you think, visit our campaign website.

Sharon's story

Wallan resident Sharon, 37, said improved mental health access in Mitchell Shire was crucial as both her and her son had experienced long delays in getting help.

“Last year, I was really struggling with suicidal thoughts. I decided to speak out to my doctor after it became pretty overwhelming for me and he referred me onto a counselling service outside of Mitchell Shire,” she said.

“But they never called. I waited about a year before contact was made just a month ago. Thankfully, I had the support of my local doctor and my family, but I worry about people who do not have access to the services I need.

“I took the phone call and they told me I would need to head to Shepparton for mental health help. But I work in the city and take public transport, so this is impossible for me to get to in working hours. They said I could do a video conference from Seymour, but this does not sit well with me – the lack of availability in our local area makes getting specialist help hard.

“I am worried for everyone in our community. There is not a lot of help for teenagers either. I took my son to receive help in Craigieburn, but we were sent back saying that we needed an appointment in Mitchell Shire. They did not have the time or resources to see patients from outside of their region.

“I think the government really need to look at mental health services now, especially for the youth. This is a massive issue, if people can get help in a local area mental health rates will improve.”

Nexus Primary Health CEO Suzanne Miller

Nexus Primary Health CEO Suzanne Miller said Nexus Primary Health recognised critical gaps in the health care system in Mitchell Shire and increased their workforce to support residents.

“Nexus employs 12 people working as Psychologists, Mental health Occupational Therapists and Mental Health Social Workers. We did this to respond to demand even though we get very little funding for mental health services,” she said.

“We receive funding for two of these workers, but we have employed this team to meet demand. The funding we do receive is minor and usually is made up from state and federal government funding and the Primary Health Networks. Each funding source has its own set of rules and expectations that we must meet.

“We also have counselling staff employed in Alcohol and Drug and Family Violence Services which are very busy. Up until the start of March, our counselling Services alone have had 428 referrals which is an average of more than 50 new referrals each month. This doesn’t include Family Violence and Alcohol and Drug services.

“As of February, this year, residents were waiting for 26 days at the most before some type of service response. The clients we see range from mild to severe symptoms, and the therapy we provide is tailored specifically for each person.

“For people to wait 26 days, that is pretty extraordinary to wait in the mental health sector.”

The Bridge Youth Service CEO Melinda Lawley

The Bridge Youth Service CEO Melinda Lawley said mental health prevention was key for youth living in rural areas.

“We want to see improvements in youth mental health and we believe we can do this by working with young people earlier, before their mental health deteriorates,” she said.

“An agency like The Bridge Youth Services can help change lives by working with the young person and their family to improve communication and link them in with specialists if required.

“We use evidence-based programs that can demonstrate improvements in the mental health of young people. Something must be done now to stem the flow of young people needing specialist services and improve their quality of life in rural settings.”

What Mitchell Shire needs

Access to appropriate local mental health services

We are asking the Federal candidates to ensure their mental health funding is directed to providing appropriate local mental health services. Services in our community should be limited to outreach.

Local service providers need to be appropriately funded by the Federal Government, so they can physically operate a range of services from prevention and early intervention through to acute episodes. These services need to be funded to support a range of diverse age groups across the life spectrum.

Ensure funding is appropriately directed to rural and regional communities

We are asking for the Federal Government to ensure mental health funding is allocated to support appropriate local service provision in rural and regional townships.

Ensure early provision of mental health services in growth areas

We are calling on the Federal Government to ensure timely planning and provision of mental health services in growth areas where the population is increasing.

Funding $300,000 a year for ongoing operational funding for mental health services

We are calling on the Federal Government to provide $300,000 per year for the Youth Services Hub (Wallan). This will assist with ensuring appropriate mental health services can effectively operate and provide necessary counselling and support services for young people and their families.

Funding $285,000 over three years to introduce the Live4Life Program

We are asking for $285,000 to coordinate, implement and evaluate a three-year Live4LIfe program.

Live4Life is an evidence based, rural youth mental health model to prevent youth suicide and aims to ensure that young people, teachers, parents and the wider community are better informed about mental ill health.

The program includes:

  • Evidence based mental health education across all secondary schools and community
  • Implementation of local youth leadership and participation programs
  • Coordinated, support and Mentoring by Youth Live4Life Staff
  • School, Community and Local government Partnership (collective impact model)
Key statistics
  • Mitchell Shire has a high proportion of people who are at very high risk of developing poor mental health outcomes – 7.1 per cent. The Victorian state average is 3.9 per cent.
  • Proportion of adult population with levels of very high psychological distress – 14.8 per cent.
  • Proportion of adult population with levels of moderate psychological distress – 18.3 per cent
  • Mitchell Shire’s population is expected to grow substantially over the next 30 years to more than 270,000 residents
  • Mitchell Shire needs mental health funding before the community grows further
  • Something must be done now.