Crisis centre push
Growing concern about mental health in the Wimmera has prompted a community push to establish a 24-hour mental-health crisis centre in Horsham.
Rotary clubs and advocacy group Healthy Minds Horsham, in identifying a ‘serious health-service gap’ in the region, have joined forces to tackle the issue.
The partnership has listed creating a crisis centre in Horsham that would provide dedicated support and intervention services to help people trying to cope with depressive and other mental illness as a priority.
The project brief is for a crisis centre to be available to anyone at any time and operate as part of, with or alongside, health and service agencies.
Partnership representatives Gavin Morrow, Rob Walter and Graham Gerlach have already discussed the project with Nationals candidate for the Federal seat of Mallee Anne Webster.
They plan to lobby and raise it with other politicians and community and business leaders and launch a money-raising project with scope and expectations similar to Horsham’s recently completed Wimmera Cancer Centre.
Healthy Minds spokesman Gavin Morrow said the Wimmera needed a dedicated and targeted way of dealing with the unpredictability of mental illness and the ever-constant threat of suicide.
“As a community we can’t afford to accept this,” he said.
“Suicide rates across regional Australia are too high and we must be prepared to offer immediate help to people.
“One of the things we’ve talked about with politicians is the lack of investment in dealing with what is really an epidemic.
“We rightly see a lot of time, money and effort go into tackling the national road toll.
“The number of Australian deaths from suicide is more than five times higher and attracts nowhere near the same amount of attention.”
“There are eight suicides a day across Australia, which represents a much higher mortality rate than most other ailments,” Mr Morrow said.
“Immediacy is the key. Severe attacks of depression or anxiety don’t discriminate or work to a time clock and the problem is severe enough to more than justify a dedicated 24-hour centre offering specialist support.
“We need to do something and I’m confident we as a community have the power to create a facility that can work.”
Mr Walter agreed, adding that a sense of crisis could manifest in someone late at night, early in the morning or at any time and it was at that time they needed somewhere to go for help.
“This problem isn’t going away. It is a real concern and we see it a lot in rural communities,” he said.
Mr Gerlach said Horsham and Horsham East Rotary clubs were fully behind the concept and he expected other branches and other service clubs to get on board.
Mr Gerlach said mental illness was far from a stranger to most people yet society often treated it differently to other forms of health concerns.
“It is similar to cancer. Everyone knows or has been concerned about someone who has been affected by this,” he said.
“We need to act and as a community we have shown what we can do in a very short amount of time.”
The project spokesmen said the concept was in its infancy and were unsure how a crisis centre would fit into a health-service structure in the Wimmera.
But they agreed that it needed to be open 24 hours a day, open to anyone and provide specialist and confidential support.
All spoke about the social impact on communities of failing to appropriately deal with mental-health issues.
“Let’s make no bones about it. Suicide, apart from impacting on an individual, has a devastating flow-on affect on families and communities,” Mr Gerlach said.
“As a community we need to be able to intervene when we can,”
“We’ll explore what we need to do next but it will certainly involve inviting input from the general community.”
Donna Bowman, walking 3000 kilometres across Victoria to raise suicide awareness and money for organisation Those Left Behind, was in Horsham yesterday.
Horsham Rotary clubs and Horsham police joined her at a money-raising barbecue.
NEED: Horsham armed-service veteran Michelle ‘Shelly’ Pedder has joined a call for a 24-hour mental-health centre in Horsham. Her story, page 3.