Concern as Swan Hill misses out on mental health centre
Swan Hill in Victoria’s north-west has missed out on federal funding for a youth mental health centre, despite having the state’s highest number of teenagers who self-harm.
The Federal Government has announced 15 new locations around the country for new Headspace centres.
Just over half of the new centres are in regional Australia, including sites in Kew, Werribee and Craigieburn.
Headspace offers mental and general health services, alcohol and drugs support and vocational services all under one roof.
Swan Hill, which is home to 10,000 people, was overlooked in the Federal Government’s announcement.
Youth self-harm in Swan Hill is seven times that of the state average, and the town is struggling to provide adequate help services.
The town also ranks as the worst in Victoria for Year 12 or equivalent attainment and has double the rate of teenage pregnancy.
Swan Hill Rural City Council’s Bruce Myers has told 7.30 Victoria he will lobby hard for the town to be included in the next round of Headspace funding.
“It is hard to recruit people in the country, so hence why we’re actively exploring establishment of a headspace because at least with the youth early intervention stuff, we can hopefully attract some qualified people to work here,” he said.
Professor Patrick McGorry, a member of one of Australia’s leading youth mental health organisations Orygen, which offers specialised clinical services in Melbourne, says state governments should be doing more to support young people dealing with mental health issues.
[State governments] keep saying our mental health services are adequate … there’s a huge hole in mental health services in every single state in Australia.
“This is a massive public health problem across the whole country; regional cities, outer urban areas of the capital cities,” he said.
“Headspace is part of the response and a vital part, it’s really the frontline; somewhere for young people to go to. I don’t think that regional areas should be pitted against the outer urban areas, I think this sort of policy response is needed everywhere.
“I believe one day we will have a Headspace in every community but where’s the back-up? The state government’s complacency in every state is staggering.
“They are really not committed to building the youth mental health system from the state side.
“They keep saying our mental health services are adequate, well there’s a huge hole in mental health services in every single state in Australia and particularly Victoria and New South Wales.”
‘It just isn’t enough’
Paul Prendergast has been a counsellor at Swan Hill College for 12 years and told 7.30 Victoria that he has never been as busy as he is now and he cannot explain why.
He says the town needs a cutting edge mental health shop front for at-risk teens.
“Most of the students that came in seeking assistance, they were at the end of depression and that includes thoughts of suicide, in some cases having places planned to commit suicide,” he said.
“The way I look at Headspace, it’s a one stop shop for choice of better words, it’s a place that we can take young people where all the services are there under one roof.”
Mr Prendergast sought assistance from local GP Dr Ernan Hession and together they created their own system which guarantees students a GP appointment at short notice.
“I think it’s like a lot of country towns, you sometimes have to be more innovative yourselves,” Dr Hession said.
“You know it’s sad to an extent but resources are resources and there’s no doubt it sometimes just isn’t enough.”