In need but left in limbo for months

Holly ThompsonSound Telegraph
Mental Health Commission logo
Camera IconMental Health Commission logo Credit: supplied

A Rockingham woman has called for better mental health services after being left in limbo for months when she reached out for urgent help.

The 42-year-old, who did not wish to be named, said she had been suicidal and had tried to get help from the State Government-run Rockingham Kwinana Mental Health Service, in a day therapy program they offer.

“If I didn’t have my son to look after I would have agreed to just go into hospital,” she said.

Her eight-year-old son has autism, as well as several other disabilities, and she is his full-time carer.

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“I was referred to an intensive day program which I could go to every day while my son was at school. I was told until that begins, the mental health team would check in on me regularly.”

Since the initial contact with the service, she said she had not heard back. That was about three months ago.

“I rang them (several weeks ago) and told them I could be dead by now and you wouldn’t even know,” she said.

“I have fight in me, I want to stick around for my little boy, but how many people are killing themselves because mental health services are not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”

A South Metropolitan Health Service spokesman said he strongly encouraged her to contact the service as it was “very unusual for the service not to have responded”.

She said she tried multiple times but believed the mental health sector was “well and truly” understaffed, especially with an increased demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, and lacked the funding required.

A Mental Health Commission spokesman said demand for the Community Mental Health Service in Rockingham-Peel had surged over the last five years, from 2400 in 2015-16 to 4000 in 2019-20.

“There has been a significant increase in demand for our mental health services across WA over the past decade, addressing this is our focus,” he said.

Western Australian Association for Mental Health chief-executive-officer Taryn Harvey said the pressure on mental health services in WA, even before COVID-19, was significant.

She also said programs aimed at keeping patients out of hospitals were the most under-resourced part of the mental health sector.

“We’re calling for change, we want to create things that really don’t exist at the moment or are hard to find because they are poorly resourced,” she said.“I don’t think it is unusual, I know of others living in the Rockingham Kwinana areas who have had similar issues with not hearing back.

“Our view is if we fix other parts of the mental health system it will take the pressure off those community services.”

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636

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