Open your eyes to the reality of mental health care on the EP
I read with interest the article Missing link for mental health (Sentinel June 6, 2019) by Jarrad Delaney.
In it he states that Kym Callaghan, a member of the Mid West Health Advisory Council from Elliston has called for a psychologist on the Eyre Peninsula.
I agree with him that it is not until you personally need to access these services for yourself or those you care about that you realise how there are many barriers to access and holes in the system available.
It is disappointing to hear Country Health SA's mental health strategy and operations director Umit Agis report there is a range of mental health services that were accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week for people suffering from mental health challenges on the Eyre Peninsula. This is not correct.
Yes if you are in a major town such as Whyalla or Port Lincoln hopefully you would be able to access assistance if you were at, or past, breaking point. However, for those of us that are outside of these areas it is a scary and isolated experience.
The care that does visit the outreach towns is not a psychologist and you will usually wait a few months to get in.
My personal experience was that once I finally got an appointment, the staff member, although lovely, did not have the skills needed. My experience has been had by other locals in my area.
Another time I was lucky to have been set up with a great counsellor, however due to funding was offered six or so sessions.
Now this is extremely anxiety provoking when you are at your lowest.
Firstly every time you open up to a new care provider it is emotionally draining as well as traumatic and secondly knowing you will be cut off in a few weeks is terrifying.
I strongly believe Mr Callaghan is highlighting a big hole in mental health care on the Eyre Peninsula.
Yes on paper it appears there are some services, however in reality if you do not live in Whyalla, Port Lincoln or perhaps Ceduna you are left with two options really. You can do a phone link-up (imagine how hard this is when you are in a mental health crisis) or you can present to your local hospital - usually staffed by one registered nurse and one enrolled nurse who are flat out caring for our elderly, in-patients and the other patients attending accident and emergency.
If your town has a GP (I am extremely fortunate that our closest town does) you will get some care when they can fit you in to their overloaded case load. Luckily for me our GP Scott Lewis is amazing, but if he is away or you live in another area I do not know what would happen.
The reason I wanted to write this letter is just to back up Mr Callaghan as I felt the response from Mr Agis was too simplistic.
Yes the services he mentioned are available on paper, however accessing these in reality is almost impossible.
What is even harder though is for those that have sought help and then want to get on with their lives at home again.
There are no services offered and little community understanding of what a struggle it is to try and rebuild your life.
The biggest breakthrough I believe the Eyre Peninsula has had in recent years is the work done by Mentally Fit EP.
I am in awe of the amazing work they are doing to break down the stigma of mental health issues and to teach everyone about self-care and supporting each other.
I feel that there is lots happening to hopefully catch people before they fall into a mental health crisis but please don't give up on those that have already fallen and want to be back living a meaningful life.
I will follow with interest what the Member for Flinders Peter Treloar can do to assist the community of the EP to gain more meaningful mental health services in the meetings he has coming up in the next few weeks and hope these are reported upon.