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We have changed our name! Kids on the Spectrum is now called Living on the Spectrum

Accessing mental health supports. Why the system is failing our kids.

Mental health seems to be the buzz word at the moment. But even with all the new services and understanding there is still a huge a gap in accessing mental health supports and services, especially for our young people. What happens when you need more support than just a phone help line. Then you are an inbetweener, and all we can say is “Good Luck”

One in five Australians experience mental illness in any given year. Accessing mental health supports. Why is still so difficult for some?
One in five Australians experience mental illness in any given year.

Why are individuals still struggling?

The answer to this is, I have no idea. Nor do many doctors and allied health professionals. This is a crisis and we really need to talk more about.

According to the Australian Institute of health and welfare “One in five Australians experience mental illness in any given year.  Most of which will be mild (15% or an estimated 2.3 million Australians among the 15.3 million Australians) or moderate (7%, or an estimated 1.2 million people). It is estimated that around 5% or 800,000 people have a severe mental illness, of which 500,000 people have episodic mental illness and 300,000 have persistent mental illness (PC 2020)”

Tammy’s story

 I recently spoke to Tammy. Tammy’s 19-year-old daughter had spoken about how she would jump in front of cars because life was difficult. She also self-harmed and engaged in destructive behaviour.

Tammy (not her real name) told me she had no idea what to do to help her daughter. She had no idea who to turn to for assistance.

“My GP gave us a mental health plan via the Better Access initiative for 10 initial psychology sessions. We were told we had to wait 6/8 weeks for an appointment. I then phoned the hospital. They asked me if Tammy had harmed herself. I answered no, not yet. They told me it was not a medical emergency”

Tammy was told it was not a medical emergency.

Tammy said she was so frustrated as not one person could direct her to immediate help. Her daughter was not seen as an immediate medical emergency; however, her needs were far too complex for a phone help line. Tammy then rang Lifeline. They said Tammy’s daughter could phone herself for some counselling, but that was all they could offer her. Lifeline informed Tammy that if her daughter did harm herself significantly, they could then look at admitting her to hospital or call a CATT team. Tammy recalls the frustration at being told they would have to wait until Tammy’s daughter significantly hurt herself before they could get some help sooner.

The Inbetweeners

There are reports and stories of thousands of individuals who are caught in this space. Tammy is not alone. The in between of mental health. Not quite urgent enough for emergency care and intervention but in need of far more complex support than phone help lines. Because of this, many families express that it is like living with a constant ticking time bomb.  

While the government have spent millions post pandemic on mental health the services, for families like Tammy’s, it is still difficult to locate and access. And the services that they can be accessed are often met with excessively long wait times or substantial out of pocket expenses.

There are report and stories of thousands of individuals are caught in this space

Accessing mental health supports.

If you are in need of mental health support, you should first visit your GP. You GP can assisit you in accessing the better access initiative for a mental health care plan. We have listed some other resources that may be of assistance.

Better access initiative, mental healthcare plan – A Mental Health Treatment Plan is available to you if you have a mental health disorder diagnosed by a doctor. If you have a Mental Health Treatment Plan, you will be entitled to Medicare rebates for up to 10 individual psychological appointments per calendar year. This gives you access to certain psychologistsoccupational therapists and social workers.

The emergency department of public hospitals – Anyone expressing self-harm or suicidal thoughts should seek immediately help. But the reality is often long waits and limited resources available.

CAMHS – Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) provide a range of services in the local community to children, adolescents and their families with a range of difficulties that seriously impact on their mental health and emotional wellbeing.

Beyond Blue – Beyond Blue is an Australian mental health and wellbeing support organisation. They provide support programs to address issues related to depression, suicide, anxiety disorders and other related mental illnesses

LifeLine – Lifeline is a non-profit organisation that provides free, 24-hour telephone crisis support service in Australia. Volunteer crisis supporters provide suicide prevention services, mental health support and emotional assistance, not only via telephone but face-to-face and online.

Private Mental health hospitals – For some with the financial means these provide a relief for expediated help for both children and adults in need of more complex mental health care.

CATT – A CATT is a group of people who work together and includes mental health professionals such as psychiatric nurses, social workers, psychiatrists and psychologists. They are based in major hospitals. They may be known as Psychiatric Emergency Teams (PET). To find your local CATT or PET team, ring your closest major public hospital.

Your Sates supports.

If you need help now, call your state’s mental health crisis line for immediate expert support. They will help you work out which services can best help. This could be the doctor, a hospital emergency department or a community mental health service. For more info you can head to Health direct.

Although there is an abundance of options, the reality is long wait times to access support and substantial financial expenses for expediated care. It may also be a reality of being bounced around between supports until you find one that can assist you and your family. It is not a quick exercise obtaining mental health care for what we call the “Inbetweeners”

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