SERIOUS ABOUT CHANGE: Shadow Minister for Health Ros Bates and State Member for Southern Downs James Lister outside Warwick Hospital.
SERIOUS ABOUT CHANGE: Shadow Minister for Health Ros Bates and State Member for Southern Downs James Lister outside Warwick Hospital. Bianca Hrovat

'The single biggest issue': Mental health problems on rise

FUNDING is set to increase for mental health and suicide prevention as concerns grow for drought-stricken farmers across the Southern Downs.

During a visit to the Warwick Hospital last week, Shadow Minister for Health Ros Bates said the facility reported a spike in the number of patients with symptoms of mental health problems.

"Their presentations here are increasing and suicide is on the rise in regional areas,” Ms Bates said.

"It is the single biggest issue.”

Dry conditions have a far more severe mental health impact than previously acknowledged, according to a long-term Australian study that analysed the aftermath of the millennial droughts.

Darling Downs Hospital and Health Services currently provides community-based mental health services from the Locke St specialist clinic at Warwick Hospital.

According to executive director for mental health Greg Neilson, the team of 11 on-site mental health nurses, psychologists and social workers are well-equipped to meet the needs of the Warwick community.

Severe mental health cases are referred to the mental health unit at Toowoomba.

Ms Bates, a former mental health nurse, said the services 'just aren't there' and 'when they are, it's a challenge to get people to staff them.'

The State Government will introduce a suicide prevention program in September, according to Ms Bates, and she encouraged the introduction of "step up, step down” facilities.

"Everyone I speak with says we need to have them,” she said.

"When they're set up, if you just need to come in and talk to someone that's available, but then you have in-patient beds for patients not acute enough to be in psychiatric care but need to stabilise medication or moods.”

Last week the Federal Government announced an additional $1.45 billion in funding over three years to plan and commission mental health services across regional Australia.

The report said the funding would enable regional services to identify and fill gaps in their services and respond to local needs across the mental health sector.

Mr Neilson said there were no current plans to expand the mental health facilities at Warwick Hospital.



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