Act on mental health: MP

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Warren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman has demanded urgent intervention for the sake of the region’s mental health.
Camera IconWarren-Blackwood MLA Terry Redman has demanded urgent intervention for the sake of the region’s mental health. Credit: Danella Bevis/Danella Bevis

Local MP Terry Redman has demanded immediate State government action to address a worrying climb in drug abuse, self-harm and suicide attempts in the Augusta-Margaret River shire.

The Nationals member said last week’s Times report revealing a three-year, 28 per cent climb in residents seeking help at Margaret River Hospital showed urgent intervention was needed.

“The Government must do more in this space and address the need for psychiatric support in acute situations, as well as long-term support strategies to keep people safe,” he said. “Mental health is emerging as a big issue in this region on the back of a struggling economy, as well as increased use of drugs such as meth.

“Evidence shows that longer-term early intervention strategies have a sustained impact in reducing harm, with people seeking help earlier.”

Mr Redman said more funding was needed for youth programs and early intervention, while additional qualified staff were needed “to support people when in crisis situations”.

“The Margaret River region has had its fair share of issues and should not be neglected in any resource allocation,” he said.

Responding to inquiries, Mental Health Minister Roger Cook offered no immediate extra resources.

He said the Mental Health Commission provided about $30 million to the WA Country Health Service for specialised mental health services in the South West.

“Nursing staff at Margaret River Hospital have undertaken specialist training in the area of mental health and are further supported by the Mental Health Emergency Telehealth Service, connecting on-the-ground clinicians to specialist psychiatric care 24/7,” he said.

He said a community mental health team offered a psychiatric service four days a week, overseen by a senior medical practitioner, and an extra $1.9 million was “provided to WACHS to deliver a dedicated youth mental health program, which includes a hub within the South West”.

Non-government organisations also received $10 million in 2019-20 for drug and alcohol treatment in the South West.

“This includes the Schools Response Program, provided at a number of locations including Margaret River High School,” Mr Cook said.

“We all want to see our younger generation thrive.”

Margaret River Community Mental Health Alliance chairman Stuart Hicks said the new data was “deeply disturbing”. “Based on figures in a national study by the Productivity Commission, mental ill-health, the cost of harm and suicide, together with reduced life expectancy, is likely to exceed $100 million a year in our shire,” he said.

“Regardless of the dollars, however, the real anguish and suffering is beyond any expression in money terms and is a scourge on our community.” Mr Hicks said “eco-anxiety” was a growing local issue in the wake of bushfires and climate change “and it adds an unfamiliar new anxiety for people who have chosen to live here for its attractions”.

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