Primary Health Network provider Coordinaire is holding out hope that Bega may be the recipient of funding for a Headspace Centre which would provide early intervention mental health services to 12-25-year-olds.
The government had promised funding for 10 new centres and Coordinaire has petitioned for one of those to be in Bega, but as yet had not heard whether the shire would get this much-needed help for local young people and their families.
CEO Dianne Kitcher said there were additional initiatives commissioned by Coordinaire to provide better mental health outcomes on the Far South Coast for young people. She said a new telehealth service provided by the Royal Far West would target 0-15-year-olds and their mental health. Ms Kitcher said that Royal Far West was extremely skilled at working with younger people.
“The PHN has been working closely with local communities, consumers, carers, health professionals, hospitals and community mental health providers to understand, and then co-design solutions, to meet local needs,” said Ms Kitcher.
“This new service mix will provide services targeted specifically at those most in need in the region, and include suicide prevention after care support, enhanced peer workforce, new models of service delivery, and more flexible options.”
Below is a summary of the services which will be funded from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018:
Psychological therapies for hard to reach groups – Grand Pacific Health will provide individually tailored, flexible psychological therapies through primarily face-to-face consultations in the entire South Eastern NSW region and Royal Far West will complement this service by providing telehealth mental health services to children aged 0-15 years and their families in the southern part of the region
Support for complex mental health needs – The Trustee for Saint Patricks Trust will provide mental health nursing support to people with complex mental health needs through all general practices in the Shoalhaven region. Grand Pacific Health will provide mental health clinical support and peer worker support to people with complex mental health needs for the remainder of the Illawarra and Southern NSW regions
Suicide prevention activities – Grand Pacific Health will provide support and intervention to people presenting to Emergency Departments after a suicide attempt through clinical and peer workers in Southern NSW.
Ms Kitcher said general practice will continue to play a vital role in supporting people with mental health needs.
“GPs will need to refer people to these new services so we will be working closely with general practice to ensure existing staff are upskilled and understand what services are available and how to refer to them,” said Ms Kitcher.
But Ms Kitcher admitted that there was no new money contained within the funding and that in order to provide some services in the south, services would need to be moved from the northern part of Coordinaire’s area.
“Our role is to assess the needs. One of the problems was the bigger spend in the north.
“This is about trying to move resources to parts of the region that haven’t got any resources. It’s difficult because we have to take some away from somewhere else,” Ms Kitcher said.
As Ms Kitcher explained mental health services can be thin on the ground in rural areas posing challenges for parents and difficulties for young people as they battle emotional highs and lows.
A local psychologist, who did not wish to be named, said that adolescent depression often looks very different to adult depression.
“While there is the same degree of low mood, teenagers can seem to experience periods of reasonably good mood and then slip back into despair very abruptly. That can give observers the impression that they are not as depressed as they actually may be,” the psychologist said.
“Check in regularly with your teenage son or daughter about their mental health, even if they seem OK, but especially when they have become socially withdrawn, and if they don’t seem to enjoy the things they used to enjoy,” the psychologist advised.
“Ask directly if they have thoughts about suicide and make a deal with them that they should speak to you if they ever do think about it.”
The psychologist also advised parents to seek out the help of a therapist at the earliest signs of depression. “There is no harm in getting a psychological assessment done, even if it turns out that the young person is OK. Having spoken with a therapist at least once, will add another resource which they could choose to use in times of stress in the future.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, help is available at any time
Lifeline 131 114
MensLine 1300 789 978
Beyondblue 1300 224 636