Waiting weeks for help
Psychologists in growing demand for mental illness
AWARENESS and understanding of mental health issues has led to more residents seeking help, Stanthorpe psychologist Elizabeth Searle says.
This increase over the past 10 years has meant psychologists in town are in high demand, being booked out for weeks in advance.
Mrs Searle said there were waiting lists of up to seven weeks for the four to five new referrals each week.
She said although some people got in early due to cancellations, seven weeks was too long to be waiting.
“It’s rare to be able to ring up and get an appointment the following week,” she said.
“Seven weeks is a long time to wait when you feel like your head’s about to burst.”
Mrs Searle said practising good well-being was one way to free up the waiting lists.
“If we could persuade people to improve their sleep pattern, improve their nutrition, and move a little bit more than some people do, lots of things would settle down,” she said.
“Being well is not rocket science, but when we’re unwell we forget to do the simple things that contribute to our wellness.”
She said group programs such as Happy Chats which meets on Tuesdays at Hilton Stor the Men’s Shed which meets on Wednesdays were a good starting place.
Stanthorpe woman Helen Ferrier hosts group well-being sessions.
Mrs Ferrier said these focused on early intervention and prevention but were not a replacement for more severe mental health cases.
“If you get early intervention it can help prevent the worsening of symptoms,” she said.
“These intervention programs can help reduce the waiting lists for people who do need to see psychologists for serious issues.”
“If there’s an alternative for people with milder symptoms and they come to a group, that can help them cope in the meantime.”
Mrs Ferrier said mindfulness was not a replacement for professional help.
“I’m a health practitioner and a mindfulness practitioner, but I’m not a mental health practitioner,” she said.
“I refer on to the psychologists anyone who I’d be concerned about.”
Darling Downs Health Service, Rural Mental Health Service manager Teifi Willis said Stanthorpe Hospital treated patients with moderate to clinical mental health issues.
“Residents can self-refer to the service, or via their general practitioner or hospital emergency department,” Ms Willis said.
“All referrals are actioned within clinically recommended time frames.”
WELL-BEING FIRST: Helen Ferrier, who runs well-being workshops, says early intervention is key to freeing up hospitals and psychologists’ waiting lists.