Published by The Border Watch
HUNDREDS of Limestone Coast residents seeking mental health support are on waiting lists up to 12 months long to see counsellors and psychologist as the sector struggles to meet high demand.
Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell says service providers have reported a large increase of clients who are accessing services for the first time in their lives after almost a year of COVID-19 limitations.
"Last year made us very aware of our mental health and perhaps for the first time that stigma of asking for and accessing help and support is beginning to lift," he said?
"But people are having to wait months and months to get that first appointment." According to Mr Bell, patients waiting for mental health treatments are forced to resort to emergency or crisis services and putting existing services under demand.
"The Mount Gambier Hospital has six dedicated mental health beds which are frequently full and medical beds are used for mental health cases," he said.
"If some of these people were able to access care and support early, they would not be needing crisis care." The independent MP told parliament volunteer-led initiatives such as Lifeboat, The Junction and the Mount Gambier and suicide prevention networks provided crucial support for vulnerable residents, but required long-term funding commitment from the State Government.
Mr Bell cited survey results from a study undertaken by Lifeline South East, with more than 95pc of the 1045 participants agreeing the region requires more mental health services and stronger collaboration between existing services.
A majority of respondents (86pc) reported either knowing someone who had or had themselves used local mental health services, but just 53pc said they felt confident they could locate appropriate mental health services in the region.
Almost half of the respondents showed a preference for accessing mental health services information through face-to-face contact (47pc), with online (29%), and over the phone (15%) the less preferred channels.
He called for the establishment of a central mental health hub to provide a free non-clinical service for people to access face-to-face support, information, and help in navigating local, state and national mental health services.
In a statement, Lifeline Australia recommended the establishment of a central hub focused on needs assessment and information and referral to be located in Mount Gambier.
Crisis support can be found at Lifeline: (13 11 14 and lifeline.org.au), the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467 and suicidecallbackservice.org.au) and beyondblue (1300 22 4636 and beyondblue.org.au).