Service gaps

ACCESS difficulties and service gaps in Swan Hill's mental health sector are endangering the lives of vulnerable local people. 

Getting in touch with someone on the ground who can physically render assistance to a person in a crisis is extremely difficult.

Phone hotline service Lifeline is a fantastic option for many people in need (and we urge anyone in distress to call it on 13 11 14), but alone, it's not enough. The problem remains.

There were 2361 suicide deaths in Australia in 2010, 229 more than were recorded in 2009, with men aged between 40 and 44 the most likely end their own life.

We need trained mental health professionals available for emergency response around the clock to deal with local people in crisis and prevent these statistics from rising.

Referring someone to a service in Mildura, Bendigo or Kerang is simply not good enough.

This seemingly endless referral process is another common gripe amongst local patients.

In some cases, desperate people in the midst of a serious episode have been told someone from Mildura (or myriad other places) will contact them, only to go weeks without hearing from anybody.

Our journalists have been pursuing this story for weeks now and some local welfare organisations have still not returned our calls, presumably because they are inundated with work. 

Others referred us on to parent offices in Bendigo and other larger cities who were similarly unhelpful. Some, disgracefully, had incorrect contact details listed in the public domain.

If a team of journalists have trouble tracking these people down, imagine the difficulties a distraught, potentially suicidal person with nowhere to go would experience!

The Guardian is not interested in attempting to allocate blame to a particular service or group.

Why not? Because local welfare services are at full capacity, politicians around the country recognise the need for better services, and local community members have vociferously campaigned for better services in Swan Hill for some time.

It is our hope that by discussing this topic we will help to break down the taboo surrounding this serious issue and encourage people to discuss potential solutions. 

Let us know your positive suggestions and constructive thoughts by commenting on our Facebook page, sending us an email or writing us a letter.

Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 if you are in need of assistance.