By Steph McNicol

WHITTLESEA has been named a priority site for mental health support in the final Royal Commission report into Victoria’s ‘broken’ mental health system – one of six regions identified for fast-tracked support.

The State Government hopes to provide the ‘front-door’ support for vulnerable people by mid-2022 or before the end of 2022.

The government has committed to implementing all 65 recommendations made in the final report as a first step to repairing the state’s mental health system, with a ‘how can we help?’ approach.

Whittlesea hosted a Royal Commission hearing in 2019 where residents were able to express their needs and share their stories.

The metropolitan region was chosen because of its high levels of community mental health contacts per capita, in addition to significant evidence supporting ongoing mental health issues related to Black Saturday Bushfires.

Last year, the Coroners Court of Victoria released findings relating to four suicides by South Asian women aged between 29 and 40 in Whittlesea during 2018, with another two suspected suicides from 2019.

Although it is unclear at this stage what the mental health support for Whittlesea will look like, the government has committed to implementing an Adult and Older Adult Mental Health and Wellbeing Services support system – an initiative committed to providing support before people reach a crisis point.

City of Whittlesea Council chair administrator Lydia Wilson said council had been advocating for better mental health services for years and council welcomed the findings by the Royal Commission.

“We are very pleased the City of Whittlesea was named one of six priority sites for new mental health services in the state given our local needs,” she said.

“Health and human services infrastructure in growth areas has not kept pace with population growth and services so we welcome the news that the government will consider population growth when funding future mental health services.”

Ms Wilson said there was a high proportion of vulnerable people in the municipality.

“The City of Whittlesea has a relatively high proportion of vulnerable groups at risk of poor mental health outcomes including women in the perinatal period, women who experience family violence, Aboriginal people and people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, so we’re very pleased to see the government will deliver culturally safe services in our area for

Indigenous people experiencing mental health and prioritise funding for Northern Hospital in the next roll-out of adolescent in-patient beds and perinatal mental health services for new mothers,” she said.

“We look forward to working with the Victorian Government in strengthening our mental health system so that all community members of the City of Whittlesea can benefit, after all – mental health impacts us all.”

Member for Yan Yean Danielle Green said the Whittlesea area had been impacted by Black Saturday.

“Our community was particularly impacted by Black Saturday and this will mean people who will struggle with these memories, get the care they need sooner and closer to home,” she said.

People experiencing anxiety, depression or mental illness can contact the national Head to Help program: 1800 595 212.  DPV

Health also provides a range of mental health support, including a Head to Help Hub in Broadmeadows, and can be contacted via www.dpvhealth.org.au, or phoning 1300 234 263. LIFT Stepped Model of Mental Health provides expert support from mental health nurses, peer workers, care coordinators and counsellors. People can visit bchs.org.au/services/mental-health/lift-stepped-care-model, phone 9450 2005 or for LifeConnect Suicide Prevention support, phone 1300 052 590, email lifeconnect@neaminational.org.au or visit www.neaminational.org.au/LifeConnect.

If you or someone you know requires immediate help, call: Lifeline: 13 11 14; Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467; or Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800.