Herald Sun

Cry­ing out for help

Con­cern over ambo men­tal health calls

- ALANAH FROST alanah.frost@news.com.au Health · Public Health · Anxiety · Mental Health · Medicine · Society · Depression · Health Conditions · Monash University · United States Department of Health and Human Services · Ambulance Victoria

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.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia