Deadline nears for feedback on PHN's mental health, suicide prevention needs assessment

WHEN it comes to getting mental health help or preventing suicide, it’s too ‘shameful’, it’s too hard and it’s too far.

These are some of the recurring themes in a region-wide assessment of mental health and suicide prevention services, as the deadline nears for people to have their say.

Hunter New England and Central Coast Primary Health Network (PHN) is urging people to contribute so it can develop the best possible regional mental health and suicide prevention plan.

The Department of Health and Ageing has set a deadline of March 2018 for the plan to be completed, and the PHN hopes is to start developing it in July or August.

What's it all about?

Chief executive officer Richard Nankervis said the purpose was “to help us build a profile of the mental health and wellbeing of our community”.

“In particular we are hoping to hear from vulnerable and hard-to-reach groups,” he said.

“We will also use the information to map current care pathways, determine where there are gaps in service and identify barriers preventing access to care.”

A consulting service has been doing interviews and running focus groups in the PNH area to gather information.

Feedback is also being taken through an online survey of individuals, GPs and service providers.

Consultations began last month.

Mr Nankervis said 124 people had completed the online survey in the first three days – 70 per cent service providers, 20 per cent consumers and 10 per cent GPs – and 250 people had been consulted face-to-face.

“Access to services is a common concern, and barriers to access include cost, transport and knowledge of available services,” he said.

“Stigma about mental illness remains a significant concern and frequently prevents help-seeking.

“Changes in services have impacted on referral pathways, and there’s also a strong need for an authentic community voice for advocacy.”

​What are people saying?

  • “The only services I can access for mental health is two and a half hours away. There is no public transport which gets me there and back in one day. I can’t afford to stay overnight so I can only go when someone takes me and can bring me back on the same day.”
  • “In response to a number of suicides in our community, we have worked together to support families and friends following a suicide. Our approach is to provide ongoing support to families and friends and to link them in with service providers.”
  • “The hardest thing was to admit I needed help. With the push from my family I spoke with my GP about how I was coping. I am now finally getting help. We need to find ways for people to take that first step to speak with their families and with their GP.”
  • “Complexities of the system can be difficult to navigate.”
  • “Stronger community responses and ties are extremely important.”