One in five Australians is affected by mental illness but many don’t seek help because they fear the stigma. World Mental Health Day on Thursday aims to change this, shedding a more positive light on mental health.
Mental illness is a significant problem in Gippsland, with a higher average rate of people experiencing mental health conditions when compared with the Victorian average. It affects people from all walks of life.
Data shows that 14.3 per cent of adults in Gippsland have high or very high psychological distress, compared with 12.6 per cent in Victoria.
High mental health rates also apply to young people, with 7.4 per cent of children in Gippsland diagnosed with emotional or behavioural problems compared with 4.6 per cent across Victoria. Anti-depressant prescribing rates for children are up to twice as high for some Gippsland local government areas, compared with the state average.
Gippsland PHN is actively addressing the issues, investing in programs to support people and improve mental health care across the region.
“Everyone understands mental health is a top health issue in Gippsland and our focus is on reducing stigma and improving access to mental health services,” the Chief Executive Officer of Gippsland PHN, Ms Amanda Proposch, said.
“We work to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of primary mental health and suicide prevention services, and improve access to and integration of services to ensure people receive the right care, in the right place, at the right time.”
Gippsland PHN is working with local health services on an integrated regional plan for mental health and suicide prevention and invests in programs, ranging from low-intensity mental health services, youth specific services, psychological services, severe and complex services and suicide prevention activities.
Commissioned services include a mental health clinician who works in general practices to support people experiencing mild mental illness in Heyfield, Maffra and Stratford. Complementing the face-to-face support is a free online program, Calm Kids Central, which assists Gippsland families experiencing behavioural, emotional, social or mental health challenges with their children.
Mental health nurses who are trained to support people with complex mental health needs also are available in a number of general practices across Gippsland. Commissioned by Gippsland PHN, the nursing service helps to coordinate clinical care, supporting GPs and private psychiatrists.
Gippsland PHN has commissioned the Butterfly Foundation to treat and care for young people with a diagnosed eating disorder through the delivery of education and training; provides training to GPs and other health workers across Gippsland including those working within the Doctors in Secondary Schools program; and supports face-to-face counselling opportunities through the education of headspace clinicians.
Gippsland PHN also works with Aboriginal organisations to design services for local indigenous communities. The Indigenous Dual Diagnosis Service supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing mental health and alcohol and drug problems, providing outreach, cultural safety and workforce development opportunities.
“We also tackle stigma through our work with Wellways, which supports people with lived experience to talk about suicide in their local communities, and our support for the Mental Health Round in local football and netball competitions,” Ms Proposch said.
The Mental Health Round was developed by AFL Gippsland and the Gippsland Mental Health Alliance, with funding provided by the Gippsland PHN.
In Bass Coast and the Latrobe Valley, Gippsland PHN coordinates a place-based suicide prevention program based on evidence that shows the places where people live and spend their time can affect their health and wellbeing. The trials are harnessing local skills, expertise and resources to implement tailored, evidence-based initiatives in local communities.