Mental Health News

Swan Hill Misses Out On Mental Health Centres

Swan Hill in Victoria's north-west has missed out on federal funding for a youth behavioral health center, despite having the state's highest number of teenagers who self-harm.

The Federal Government has announced 15 locations around the country for new Headspace centers. 

VIDEO: Swan Hill struggles to provide self-harm help (7.30 Victoria)AUDIO: Town misses out on behavioral health funding (AM)

Just over half are in regional Australia, including sites in Kew, Werribee and Craigieburn.

Headspace offers mental and general health services, alcohol and drugs support and vocational services all under one roof. 

Swan Hill, which is home to 10,000 people, was overlooked in the Federal Government's announcement.

Youth self-harm in Swan Hill is seven times that of the state average, and the town is struggling to provide adequate help services.

The town also ranks as the worst in Victoria for Year 12 or equivalent attainment and has double the rate of teenage pregnancy.

Swan Hill Rural City Council's Bruce Myers has told 7.30 Victoria he will lobby hard for the town to be included in the next round of Headspace funding.

"It is hard to recruit people in the country, so [that's] why we're actively exploring establishment of a Headspace," he said.

"At least with the youth early intervention stuff, we can hopefully attract some qualified people to work here."

Professor Patrick McGorry, a member of one of Australia's leading youth behavioral health organizations Orygen, which offers specialized clinical services in Melbourne, says state governments should be doing more to support young people dealing with behavioral health issues.

[State governments] keep saying our behavioral health services are adequate ... there's a huge hole in behavioral health services in every single state in Australia.

Professor Patrick McGorry

"This is a massive public health problem across the whole country, regional cities, outer urban areas of the capital cities," he said.

"Headspace is part of the response and a vital part, it's really the frontline, somewhere for young people to go to. I don't think that regional areas should be pitted against the outer urban areas, I think this sort of policy response is needed everywhere.

"I believe one day we will have a Headspace in every community, but where's the back-up? The state governments' complacency in every state is staggering.

"They are really not committed to building the youth behavioral health system from the state side.

"They keep saying our behavioral health services are adequate, well there's a huge hole in behavioral health services in every single state in Australia and particularly Victoria and New South Wales."

'It just isn't enough'

Paul Prendergast has been a counselor at Swan Hill College for 12 years and told 7.30 Victoria that he has never been as busy as he is now and he cannot explain why.

He says the town needs a cutting edge behavioral health shop front for at-risk teens.

"Most of the students that came in seeking assistance, they were at the end of depression and that includes thoughts of suicide, in some cases having places planned to commit suicide," he said.

"The way I look at Headspace, it's a one-stop shop... it's a place that we can take young people where all the services are there under one roof."

Mr Prendergast sought assistance from local Family Physician Dr Ernan Hession and together they created their own system which guarantees students a Family Physician appointment at short notice.

"I think it's like a lot of country towns, you sometimes have to be more innovative yourselves," Dr Hession said.

"It's sad, to an extent, but resources are resources and there's no doubt it sometimes just isn't enough."

Federal Mental Health Minister Mark Butler says the Government has used sophisticated modeling to allocate its new youth support centers.

Mr Butler says the locations were carefully considered and more towns will receive the facilities in next year's budget.

"It's a very sophisticated modeling exercise, which is then also run past the relevant state government for their input," he said.

"These regions are not chosen lightly. They're chosen after a very significant piece of work."


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