Mental health disorders on rise

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PEOPLE living in Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula have higher levels of mental health disorders than the Victorian average, with health services struggling to cope with demand.

Figures from the state’s mental health intake service, Neami, put the two areas ahead of some of its biggest neighbours, including Bayside, when it comes to mental health.

Peninsula Health, the peninsula’s main providers of health services, is stretched to capacity, with waiting lists in many cases for people needing assistance.

Peninsula Health operations director Sharon Sherwood says demand for mental health care on the peninsula had been steadily  rising for the past decade, with most patients requiring long-term treatment.

Peninsula Health has about 115 residential beds in the public system for people with mental health illnesses, with about 70 of those available for young people.

Courtney Gould from Headspace Frankston said the number of young people needing help was “huge”, with one in four young people – or about 10,000 people – in the Frankston and Mornington Peninsula area experiencing a mental health issue in any 12-month period.

The 2010 Australia Bureau of Statistics report gives a snapshot of mental health in young people in Frankston, with 16.2 per cent of secondary students having very high levels of psychological distress, higher than the state average by 4 per cent.

In 2010, almost seven out of every 1000 young people on the peninsula were hospitalised with a psychiatric condition, slightly higher than the Victorian average. In Frankston it jumped to around nine out of every 1000.

Unemployment and homelessness are thought to be factors, with rates higher than the 12 per cent Victorian average in West Park (24.3 per cent) Baxter-Pearcedale (18.2 per cent), Tyabb (16.9 per cent) and Hastings (15.9 per cent).

Depression is revealed as a key issue for young people in the recently released Local Government Areas Strategic Framework for Young People 2015-2019 report by Frankston and Mornington Peninsula Shire councils. 

An increase in young people with depression is also evident in Mornington Peninsula Shire’s ‘Communities that Care Healthy Neighbourhood School Survey’ results 2012 report.

That survey found nearly one-third of young people in the Mornington Peninsula Shire had recently been bullied.

Ms Gould said specialist support was the key to helping young people bounce back from mental illness.

“We know that if a young person has a mental health issue and engages with treatment, they are less likely to go on to develop more issues,” she said. “They learn tools to cope, manage stress and look after themselves”.

Headspace helps people recognise symptoms and learn where to get help and how to look after themselves and their friends.

“The earlier things are picked up and dealt with, the quicker recovery time and less impact on their lives,” Ms Gould said.

Homelessness has been a growing concern across Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula for several years.

Records from Christian group, SalvoCare, show there were 2200 “unique clients” seeking emergency housing in Frankston in 2012-13 and 600 “repeat clients”.

Volunteer organisation Community Support Frankston reports 444 people with no fixed address needed help from the agency in 2014.

First published in the Mornington News – 11 October 2016

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