Push for UK men­tal health link model

Midwest Times - - NEWS - Taelor Pelusey

Ex­perts say a UK con­cept link­ing health and sup­port ser­vices could pave the way for more in­te­grated men­tal health care across re­gional WA as alarm­ing new sui­cide sta­tis­tics paint a bleak pic­ture ahead of Men­tal Health Week.

Data pub­lished by the Aus­tralian Bu­reau of Sta­tis­tics last week show 3128 Aus­tralians took their lives last year, mark­ing an al­most 10 per cent in­crease from 2016 to 2017.

Fig­ures also show sui­cide is now the lead­ing cause of death among peo­ple aged 15-44, prompt­ing calls for an im­me­di­ate shake-up of the men­tal health sys­tem.

Among those ad­vo­cat­ing for change is Mar­garet River’s Lisa Chatwin, who lost her daugh­ter Tahlia Stoveld to sui­cide last May.

Ms Chatwin said she felt let down by the sys­tem and was dis­mayed by what she de­scribed as poor com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween or­gan­i­sa­tions and agen­cies, an un­will­ing­ness for ser­vices to lis­ten to fam­ily mem­bers who had ex­pe­ri­enced Ms Stoveld’s pre­vi­ous psy­chotic episodes, and a lack of State-funded psy­chi­atric beds.

“If they had just lis­tened to me, we wouldn’t be here,” she said.

“This has ir­repara­bly bro­ken me — I’m bro­ken.

“We all suf­fer in si­lence in our own way and this is why I have to push for change.”

Mur­doch Uni­ver­sity men­tal health lec­turer Robert Bat­ters­bee said he be­lieved there was much good work hap­pen­ing in men­tal health but con­ceded the sys­tem was “frag­mented”, with ev­er­chang­ing fund­ing mod­els at State and Fed­eral lev­els ex­ac­er­bat­ing the is­sue.

He said the UK method of us­ing “link work­ers” — men­tal health work­ers link­ing pri­mary and se­condary care ser­vices — could help.

It would not be with­out its hur­dles, with pri­mary care be­ing funded by the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment and se­condary by the State, but Mr Bat­ters­bee said it was al­ready oc­cur­ring in in­for­mal ways and a re­think of ex­ist­ing ser­vices could make it hap­pen with­out huge fi­nan­cial re­quire­ments.

Youth Fo­cus com­mu­nity en­gage­ment gen­eral man­ager Chris Har­ris re­cently com­pleted a 12-month stint in the UK and said link work­ers there were hav­ing pos­i­tive ef­fects in re­mote ar­eas.

He said re­gional WA could ben­e­fit in a sim­i­lar way. “In re­gional ar­eas, ser­vices can be quite dis­parate due to ge­og­ra­phy so the idea of link work­ers is that they . . . help to co­or­di­nate en­gage­ment with mul­ti­ple agen­cies,” Mr Har­ris said.

“It’s kind of a no-brainer that we need to re­group, think smarter with the re­sources that we have and look at . . . a more in­te­grated ser­vice and an eas­ier way to nav­i­gate mul­ti­ple sys­tems.”

Ms Chatwin said she sup­ported money be­ing redi­rected to “more ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient pro­grams and sys­tems”, but also stressed the need for more in­fra­struc­ture, staff, and fur­ther links be­tween agen­cies.

“I was not able to have Tahlia read­mit­ted to Gray­lands be­cause there weren’t any beds avail­able,” she said. “I be­lieve we need to go fur­ther. “We need to be link­ing ev­ery ser­vice to­gether — po­lice, health, men­tal health, pri­vate men­tal health, clients and loved ones.”

Pic­ture: Taelor Pelusey

Lisa Chatwin is push­ing for change af­ter los­ing her daugh­ter, Tahlia Stoveld to sui­cide last May.

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