The rate of mental health-related emergency department presentations in Bendigo has climbed steadily over the past four years, new figures show.
Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows the rate of mental health-related presentations in the Bendigo area rose from 72.1 per 10,000 people in 2016-17 to 81.6 in 2017-18. In 2014-15, the rate was 57.6 per 10,000 people.
Bendigo Health's clinical director of psychiatric services, Associate Professor Phil Tune, said the hospital had seen more patients through the emergency department overall, which echoed a trend seen in other new hospitals.
The city's steady population growth had also seen an increase in the number of presentations, he said.
But Dr Tune noted the new data showed more than three-quarters of all mental health-related presentations in Australia belonged to four classifications, with the two most common being mental and behavioural issues caused by psychoactive substance use (27.2 per cent), and neurotic, stress-related and somatoform disorders (26.2 per cent).
He said the use of psychoactive substances was "incredibly prevalent" and had increased over the past 10 years. These patients were mostly treated in the emergency department before being released, Dr Tune said.
Meanwhile, he said, somatoform disorders came from those people who were concerned about their physical health, but were not physically ill or injured.
The other two most common reasons for mental health-related presentations in Australia were schizophrenal, schizotypal and delusional disorders, and mood disorders, which made up 11.6 per cent and 11 per cent of mental health presentations respectively.
Dr Tune said it was possible that an increase in presentations could be because of less stigma around mental illness, resulting in more people feeling prepared to visit hospital when in need.
The increase in presentations had not put strain on Bendigo Health's mental health services, he said, with most patients treated in the emergency department.
Dr Tune said there were only a couple of admissions each day from the emergency department and these were managed well.
Not all areas in central Victoria saw an increase in mental health-related presentations.
The Heathcote-Castlemaine-Kyneton area recorded its lowest rate in four years last year, while Loddon-Elmore saw a slight decline between 2016-17 and 2017-18.
Campaspe recorded a three-year low rate.
Overall, Victoria also saw an increase in the rate of mental health presentations between 2016-17 and 2017-18. But the state's rate of 90.1 per 10,000 people was the lowest in Australia and below the nationwide rate of 115.9 per 10,000 population.
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