Communities’ mental health needs highlighted to commission

By Steph McNicol

Submissions by Mitchell and Macedon Ranges shire councils and City of Whittlesea formed part of more than 8200 received by the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System.

The councils made submissions on the needs of each of their communities.

Mitchell Shire Council worked closely with the Interface Councils Region, ICR, to highlight the lack of services available for the mentally vulnerable people in the regional community compared to the inner-suburbs of Melbourne.

The ICR suggested measures taken to improve the system should include early integrated planning and a significant long-term funding commitment to ensure suitable mental health, allied health and supportive service levels were made available in the region.

Mitchell Shire Mayor David Lowe said the council attended a community consultation session in Seymour to ensure the voices of the community were heard in their submission to the Royal Commission.

“Our mental health service providers do an amazing job with the resources they have. However, we are at the beginning of our rapid growth in Mitchell Shire and our community is experiencing limited access to health and human services,” Cr Lowe said.

“The lack of specialist services forces vulnerable residents to seek appointments further away from their homes with significant wait and travel times.

“Something must be done to ensure our residents can access the support they need.”

The Macedon Ranges Shire Council compiled its own submission, focusing on youth mental health and the prevention of mental illness.

The submission highlighted the need for generalist youth workers who could reach out to struggling youth in the community; young people receiving evidence-based primary prevention support; needing ‘hurdle free’ mental health support; and young people assisting in the co-design of youth mental health support initiatives in the community.

Macedon Ranges Shire Mayor Janet Pearce said the Royal Commission was an opportunity for change.

“The impact is everywhere and especially in rural, regional and remote communities,” Cr Pearce said.

The City of Whittlesea Council’s submission highlighted the deficit of mental health support delivered to its residents compared to metropolitan Melbourne.

The submission suggested more research be done within communities to find out which population groups were most at risk of developing mental ill-health and the root causes of the mental illnesses.

Research by the council suggested a lack of access to mental health support worsened mental illness resulting in relationship breakdown, financial stress, family violence, alcohol and drug abuse, gambling, self-harm and suicide.

The report also highlighted the need for equity in accessing services and suggested focusing on location of service placement going forward, so they were central to the communities in need.

The Royal Commission released its interim report late last year – the State Government committed to implementing and funding all recommendations made by the Royal Commission in the final report, to be released in October.

For more information on the Royal Commission, visit rcvmhs.vic.gov.au