Bendigo's mental health in spotlight

MENTAL health services are severely lacking, The Greens’ mental health spokeswoman Penny Wright says. 

While in Bendigo yesterday, Senator Wright said preventative mental health services needed particular improvement, with figures showing a sharp rise in emergency waiting times for mental health patients at Bendigo Hospital. 

“It’s of great concern that you’ve had such an increase in the waiting times for people presenting at the ER with mental health conditions,” Senator Wright said. “Usually when someone presents at the ER with ill mental health they need treatment fairly urgently.

“Waiting for any period of time would make them feel frustrated but obviously for someone with a mental health condition it would severely exacerbate that condition. 

“That can then make it much more difficult to intervene and treat them before it becomes something more serious.” Senator Wright met local mental health organisations during the visit, including the Centre for Rural Health at Bendigo Hospital. 

“There’s the same prevalence of ill mental health in rural areas as in the city, but far fewer services,” she said. 

“Most psychiatrists and psychologists live in urban areas and it’s difficult with transport for people to get to the services available.

“Everywhere I go I hear there are gaps in services that are available.”

Senator Wright said the mental health system had a flawed approach. 

“It seems at the moment in Australia it’s more of a crisis-driven system,” she said.  “So once people are in a critical condition they’ll get assistance, but we should be intervening much earlier to keep people as healthy as possible.

“I think clinical services are really important and I think we need to prioritise and have much more emphasis on community-based services.”

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