Mental health system 'failing': 'They tell you to f--- off'
LUKE Williams is a two-time Walkley-nominated author who has spent the past year and a bit living in Bundaberg, learning first-hand just how difficult it is to navigate local mental health services.
Mr Williams claims he was not admitted overnight into Bundaberg hospital's psychiatric ward despite attempting suicide.
"They said that I did not meet the threshold," Mr Williams said.
This was not his first approach to his mental health issues however, but the penultimate conclusion of his frustrations after months of referrals through the mental health system.
"If you actually go and seek help somewhere and they tell you to f--- off, what's the point?" Mr Williams asked yesterday.
After spending some time living in Asia writing his latest novel, Mr Williams slid into a deep depression which led him through a stint of anti-social behaviour that eventually landed him in jail for a few days in the Philippines.
On his return to Australia, Mr Williams spent some time in a psychiatric ward in Brisbane, but he said that's not a place where people go to get better.
"So all they basically do is monitor you when you are in there in order to make sure you aren't a danger to yourself or other people," Mr Williams said.
When Mr Williams was released from the psychiatric ward in Brisbane, he said he was referred to the Bundaberg Hospital. "When I went to the Bundaberg Hospital - they had no idea who I was," Mr Williams said.
Mr Williams felt as though he was left in limbo upon his return to Bundaberg.
"My local GP has an 11 day wait and is not obviously a counsellor, there was a four-month wait to see a psychologist and when I did finally see one, he was a trainee, fresh out of university and had no idea."
When he first came to Bundaberg, Mr Williams did not have a job and hence could not afford to pay for a private psychologist.
Now he has found a job, Mr Williams can afford to talk to a mental health professional based in Brisbane over Skype.
Feeling much better than when he first arrived in Bundaberg, he wonders why there is a disparity between services for physical and mental health.
"I also went to Bundaberg base for a shoulder operation and they were wonderful there, the hospital calls you after the operation to see how you are going, you have follow-up appointments with the doctor, have a physiotherapist you see after the operation - why don't any hospitals do any of that for mental health care?" he asked.
Mr Williams took to online forums in regional towns to share his story.
"I placed messages on forums in Bundaberg about what happened to me and my inbox was overflowing with similar stories," he wrote.
"I currently have a file of 87 people who have the most horrific stories of being turned down from hospitals right across this area whilst feeling suicidal or having just attempted."
Wide Bay Mental Health Service executive director Robyn Bradley gave some background on the process of the mental health service.
"There can never be a one-size-fits-all approach to mental health care, and our range of services - complemented by other providers in the community - aims to give our consumers the right care, at the right time, in the right place," Ms Bradley said.
"This recognises that inpatient admission is not the right fit for everyone.
"Many of our consumers thrive in community-based settings, whether this is in our own residential facilities, receiving services from other providers in the community, or surrounded by their support networks at home," she said.
Ms Bradley said if a person was in crisis, they had a number of options, including going to their GP or presenting to community-based services for assessment.
She said if a person was assessed and deemed unsuitable for inpatient admission, health service teams would make appropriate referrals, including to other clinical and support services.
Ms Bradley said mental health services in Bundaberg included a 12-bed acute inpatient unit at the hospital and a 10-bed, short-stay Bundaberg Step Up Step Down facility which acts as a midway between acute and community care.
Efforts to get a response from the Australian Medical Association of Queensland yesterday were unsuccessful.
If you have been feeling depressed, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.