Coast and Gympie third-highest for mental health matters

MONEY won't cure everything, but it will go along way in the fight for better mental health.

That is the call from one of the Gympie and Sunshine Coast region's top health expert.

Our area has the third highest number of matters before the Mental Health Tribunal of regional centres across Queensland.

The Mental Illness Fellowship state branch chief Tony Stevenson's plea for more funding was echoed across regional Queensland yesterday.

An APN special investigation has revealed 605 matters were heard in the Sunshine Coast and Gympie Mental Health Review Tribunal sittings last financial year.

Mental Illness Fellowship, which provides support to hundreds of residents across the region each week, said fixing problems at the grassroots level would lower costs for hospitals on the Sunshine Coast and Gympie.

It costs about $500,000 a year for someone to stay in a hospital mental health bed, but $7000 to $10,000 a year to help people manage psychological problems at home.

"We know from research that less than 50% of people who need help never get to the point where they know how to go to get help," Mr Stevenson said.

"So at least half the people are not even in contact with services.

"And the other 50% who are in contact often are not getting the services that they need."

Mr Stevenson said more housing, family and life skills support would reduce the move into clinical services for most people with mental health problems.

"On the one hand there are the clinical services that people need where they're going to get their diagnosis, their medication and their clinical regime and then there's the support that people need just to live well in the community," he said.

"There's quite a significant shortfall in funding.

"And of the funding that does go into mental health, about 80% of that goes into the clinical - your really high-cost end of mental health like the acute beds in hospitals.

"Only about 20% of the funding goes to the services where people can be supported in the community.

"And if we were to increase the funding in that area we'd actually reduce the need for the acute-crisis-driven services - the more expensive services.

"So we need more funding and we also need a shift in that funding into community and preventative areas."

Mental Health Review Tribunal president Barry Thomas backed the call for more funding.

"Mental illness has always been the poor cousin, but

over recent years it's received substantial inputs," Mr Thomas said.

"It's a serious illness that really hasn't received the recognition it deserves.

"One-and-a-half times as many people suicide every year as are killed in car accidents and another 60-odd thousand attempt suicide.

"If you had an illness that killed that many people you'd have a massive injection of funds.

"It's not that everything needs the Rolls-Royce (of funding). We need well-targeted funds to deal with complex areas."

A spokesman for state Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said the government had invested $130.35 million to progress 16 capital works projects providing 259 new or upgraded beds for acute and extended stay treatment.

"Combined with Commonwealth capital funding for an additional 99 beds, we will deliver nine new community care units across the state with completion expected by mid-2015," he said.

"CCUs are community-based, residential facilities that provide 24-hour mental health care, peer support and rehabilitation.

"This enables people to live closer to home with support from families, friends and carers and minimum possible disruption to educational, vocational, social and community networks."

Gympie Times


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