Crying out for help
Concern over ambo mental health calls
PARAMEDICS responded to almost 100,000 suicide-related call-outs in five years, sparking a push for better funding for mental health professionals at all hours.
Ambulance Victoria were called to 97,198 self-harm attempts and threats between 2012 and 2017, new data has revealed.
More than half of the callouts were for female patients, and a high amount occurred between 6pm and midnight, when most mental health services are not in operation.
Professor Dan Lubman, the executive clinical director of Eastern Health’s addiction program Turning Point, said it was important to have such data to explain the breadth of mental health needs in the community.
“These frontline services are essentially at the coalface of mental health in the community and need to be well resourced in knowing how to best respond,” Prof Lubman said. “And we need to make sure we configure our health system to be able to respond to people’s needs.
“Ambulances aren’t often thought of as a mental health system. (So) what we’ve been calling on is a potential redesign of the current system.”
The world-first Australian study, which was a collaboration between Eastern Health, Ambulance Victoria, Monash University and the Department of Health and Human Services, analysed clinical paramedic records across a five-year period.
It also found one in five reported attempts involved alcohol intoxication and a quarter of all attempts were fuelled by benzodiazepines.
Professor Karen Smith, director of the Centre for Research and Evaluation at Ambulance Victoria, said they were continuing to explore better methods of response for mental health patients.
“Last year almost 11 per cent of Ambulance Victoria’s call-outs were for people with mental health issues,” Prof Smith said.
“We recognise that busy emergency departments, and even the back of an ambulance, can be distressing places for people with mental health issues and their families.”