Mental health hub plan underway

PROPOSED: Lifeline South East suicide awareness project officer Sam Benton encourages the public to respond to a public survey to help gauge opinions and demand for a Limestone Coast mental health services hub. Picture: MOLLY TAYLOR

By Molly Taylor

PLANS to establish a central mental health services hub in the Limestone Coast have progressed with Lifeline South East currently undertaking a community study on service demand.

The study – which includes an anonymous online survey – will help determine the need for a face-to-face facility to support people experiencing mental health challenges.

Responses in the hundreds have already started flooding in funding from the major Full Monty fundraiser helping to finance the research.

Lifeline suicide awareness project officer Sam Benton said the hub was at research stage and the not-for-profit organisation was gauging public demand.

The survey involves a series of multiple choice questions which Ms Benton said aimed to collate the community’s general knowledge of the region’s mental health services.

Ms Benton said judging from responses so far, she believed there was a service need and interest.

“It will be a place for first point of contact so people can be directed to where they need to go. It will not be a facility people can go and directly speak to a counsellor or psychologist,” she said.

“It will be another way to navigate through services when people are at that point when they identify either themselves or somebody else needs mental health help.

“We hope to engage with local mental health services around locally, have them on-board and everybody collaborating.”

Ms Benton said survey responses had shown an extended appointment waiting time, which she hoped the facility could minimise if plans progressed.

“Judging what people have said, for people trying to access mental health services, the waiting time is quite an issue,” she said.

“Once people reach that point where they want help, it is then not happening fast enough.

“Hoping with the hub we can all collaborate together and get people the help they need, when they need it so they aren’t left waiting.”

Ms Benton said it was also about raising awareness.

“There are a lot of people who said they would not necessarily go to their general practitioner first, or know to go there first and there is still unawareness of Mental Health Services Plans which I think is something we need to promote,” she said.

“It’s how people get their heavily discounted visits and it is a very important first step people need to be made aware of.”

Ms Benton said although it was planned for the hub to be based in Mount Gambier, the facility would be available for all Limestone Coast residents.

“There is feedback coming from the surrounding areas that they also feel like they need this service and it is tough because we can’t put a hub in every suburb and we have to find a central location for it,” she said.

“Unfortunately it means, some people will have to travel, but maybe in time, we can look at having other forms of contact as well.”

Lifeline’s proposal was presented in October to the Full Monty event committee members, who agreed to contribute funds towards undertaking the survey.

Committee member Maureen Klintberg said she encouraged community members with an interest in the timely access of appropriate local mental health services to complete the survey.

“The valuable information obtained will allow assessment of the needs of those in need of mental health advice and support the future development of efficient provision of care required,” Ms Klintberg said.

The survey is available by visiting the Lifeline South East Facebook Page and is expected to close by the end of December for data evaluation.