Mental health services under stress in regions

Despair and other mental health concerns are rising in regions.
Despair and other mental health concerns are rising in regions. John Gass /TWE100412despair

FUNDING for centres that help young Queenslanders with mental health problems is eroding and preventing them helping those who need the service most.

Queensland's psychiatrists have called for regional services to be better funded to handle complex mental health cases.

The call comes as an editorial in the Medical Journal of Australia says stagnant funding for Headspace means the program would struggle to provide needed services into the future.

As part of the Fair Go For Our Kids campaign, this paper revealed how rates of youth suicide in regional Queensland were significantly higher than in Brisbane.

Experts say this is often because of a lack of access to needed mental health services such as those Headspace provides.

Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Queensland chairman Brett Emmerson said funding had stagnated under multiple governments.

The digital and print deal.
The digital and print deal.

"For the past decade, Queensland's core community mental health services have seen no growth in funding and the system is under intense strain as it treats the mental health issues of a growing population with increasingly complex problems," he said.

Associate Professor Emmerson said funding had not kept up with growing caseloads.

"Queensland needs new investment in core community mental health services for adults, children and youth, and older persons, to keep pace with increasing caseloads, and to alleviate pressure on hospitals," he said.

"Core community mental health services are also reporting a growth in complex and high-risk patients, yet are not resourced to provide the specialised treatment required.

"Core community mental health services require ongoing investment in acute care teams, staff training and program development."

Headspace board director Patrick McGorry said the decision to set up "one-shop stops" for young people needing mental health treatment had helped young people who otherwise might not have sought treatment. He said the state health system's delineation between juvenile and adult mental health came at the worst time for struggling young adults.

"For complex mental health cases, that transition at 18 from the youth system to adults couldn't come at a worse time," he said.

"But a system like Headspace is designed for 12 to 25-year-olds so is uniquely able to help that age group. The problem is, we simply don't have the funding to deal with those complex cases.

"That's especially the case in regional centres. The level of expertise is more threadbare. It isn't great in the cities and it is worse in regional areas."

Prof McGorry said in the past 10 years Headspace had helped youths who would otherwise not have sought help but the service needed increased funding.

He said short-term outcomes had improved for more than 60 per cent of young people.

"However, there are improvements that could be made to the Headspace model. Some young people, such as those with more complex and severe presentations, have not benefited as greatly, because the primary care model of Headspace alone is insufficiently resourced to respond. -NewsRegional

Topics:  fairgoforourkids headspace medical journal of australia mental health patrick mcgorry qldelection2017 regions

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