Integrated and responsive mental health system needed, new report reveals

A new draft report has revealed a more integrated and responsive mental health system is needed to reduce the impact of mental illness and suicide in the region.

The South Eastern NSW Mental Health and Regional Suicide Plan is the first to bring together the findings of a primary care organisation and local public health services, and aims to “provide a blueprint for collaborative action for mental health service development over the next five years”.

The report, released last month by Illawarra Shoalhaven, Southern NSW Local Health Districts and Coordinaire primary health network, found better communication between providers could be quickly reached via a shared delivery of services, especially in a region with “diverse geographic and population characteristics and needs”.

The Snowy Mountains region was one highlighted as having a particularly high rate of suicide compared to the rest of the state, and the report also acknowledges the high rate of self-harm in the region, particularly within Indigenous residents. 

The report says the region’s limited local GP services and the need to travel to larger regional centres to access acute or specialised services including psychiatry and psychological therapies are “significant challenges” in dealing with the issue.

Positive news for the region is the launch of an outreach service to Bombala and Cooma of Australian youth mental health organisation Headspace.

While their main office is situated in Bega, and the Bombala outreach service is still yet to open, the organisation is currently also running out of the Grand Pacific Health Cooma office.

Headspace said the flexible model will have a regular presence across the region, which the new draft report says will improve “early intervention for young people with or at risk of mental illness”.

According to the report, the lack of coordinated suicide prevention services and support for people at suicidal crisis in some parts of the region is of concern to health professionals.

It also found a lack of routine follow-ups after suicide attempts is an area which should be improved.

A lack of culturally appropriate mental health services for Indigenous residents and “overall a lack of holistic care which recognises non- health needs” are areas also needing improvement, the draft report found.