Frontline workers expose failing mental health system
OVERWHELMED mental health services in the South Burnett are resulting in people slipping through the cracks and unable to get the help they need, according to youth workers and officials at South Burnett CTC.
Due to high thresholds for referrals and PHN services lacking capacity, people who are seeking help are often being turned away and in some cases not taken seriously.
South Burnett CTC is a community organisation that deals with employment, youth, disability respite, Foster Care services and are now having to deal with mental health due to the severe lack of access to services in the region.
South Burnett CTC CEO Nina Temperton said the bottom line is it’s an absolutely dismal state of affairs.
“We have children in our care who have incredible issues, who can be suicidal, who self harm on a regular basis and we are under all sorts of obligations to report when we have an issue so we ring the ambulance or the police, the child ends up in hospital and is usually discharged,” Mrs Temperton said.
“In the past, it has happened where a patient has been transported to Toowoomba Hospital and been discharged without anywhere to go, anyone to know or anyone to pick them up.
“Everybody is trying their damnedest, it’s not the peoples fault, it’s just a hopelessly inadequate supply that’s really our bottom line.
“I just think we need a far larger number of mainly psychologists and psychiatrists here who are committed to being here, who stay here so that over time they can build relationships with clients.”
Residents in the Burnett are living through a mental health crisis, with more people in the region taking their own lives than anywhere else in the sunshine state.
A report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare this week identified the Burnett region as having the highest suicide rate per capita than anywhere else in Queensland.
Between 2015-2019, suicide tragically claimed 67 Burnett lives.
CTC youth services team leader Nick Krauksts said it’s a real barrier not having enough professionals in the area.
“There are a lot of services that get funded in the Wide Bay region but they service such a large area and might be in the South Burnett one or two days a week and some are once a month,” Mr Krauksts said.
“I would say majority of the young people we work with have at least some form of anxiety and depression and there seems to be a really big gap between the threshold for youth services who deal with the really acute mental health issues and the next level of service.
“People who go through bouts of suicidal thoughts, really deep depression or crippling anxiety might not meet the threshold for the high risk programs, so their options then are really looking at private counsellors, which a lot of people can’t afford, try and get a referral through their doctor and most of those referrals go to a psychologist via Skype or Zoom and a lot of young people identify that doesn’t really work for them and that they want to speak to a person in a room.
“I guess the GPs have to refer to those online based services because there are not enough professionals actually in the South Burnett.
“I had a client who wanted to see someone in person and the doctors surgery when they tried to make a referral were informed the wait would be one to three months and when you have a kid who is really depressed or their anxiety is stopping them from going to work, in a month things are going to get worse.”
The DDWM PHN funds 13 service providers to support the mental health needs of the South Burnett including suicide prevention, youth services, counselling, psychological therapies and social and emotional wellbeing.
This includes several services specifically targeted at children and young people.
The services are provided through Lives Lived Well, CRAICCHS (Aboriginal Medical Service), Healthwise, Richmond Fellowship, Burnett Allied Care, Nadine Hinchcliffe, RHealth, EACH, Therapy Pro, Yourthrive, Catholic Care, Lifeline and Impact Community Services.
The DDWM PHN is also working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to implement culturally-based suicide prevention activities, guided by the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy.
South Burnett CTC youth services manager Kirsten Firman said support services are overloaded and need to be expanded.
“Due to the limited number of staff and the high needs of the regions mental health services, some services have a high threshold for referrals and limited case management support,” Mrs Firman said.
“Some services are constantly at capacity and some of the outreach from big centres such as Toowoomba and Ipswich have limited capacity and only occasionally visit.
“Services report they are struggling in getting mental health help for young people who come to them either as the referral is rejected, waitlists are too long or the service is not accessible.
“The South Burnett has no full-time paediatrician, wait times are 12 months plus, GPs are oversubscribed, people moving to the region can often not get into a local GP for a number of months or even years and Psychologists and counsellors are at capacity, making it very difficult to get a new client onto their books.”
South Burnett CTC put a proposal to Member for Maranoa David Littleproud in January this year to get a full time youth mental health worker for 12 months, however, they were turned down.