Tasmania's mental health services ‘can be fixed’

Karalyn Hingston
Karalyn Hingston

Since having a breakdown in April 2017 and receiving life-saving treatment, I have become a passionate advocate for mental health.

I’ve learnt that despite many dedicated people working in this area, our current structure and services fall well short of what is needed.

Our current mental health service is fragmented, with people from within the sector not aware of all the services available, let alone the general public.  It can be fixed.

One of the most common issues I hear is “I don’t know where to go to get help from”. 

There is currently nothing that provides information on the services available and how you access them.

We need a simple, but informative website that explains pathways of help for people.

Ideally, when a mental health emergency occurs, the Tasmanian Mental Health Hotline should be called.

They would arrange for the Crisis Assessment Triage Team (CATT) to go the person’s home and assess them.

And from this, appropriate treatment would commence.

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Currently the CATT team work seven days a week, but only from 7am to 7pm, which is obviously inadequate. This needs addressing to ensure 24/7 coverage.

Presently there is no linking of care; patients have to repeatedly re-tell their story.  It’s too hard.  When you are exhausted you do not have the strength to do this.

We need a statewide database that all mental health providers/services use (both government and non-government) so that at any time, a medical professional/provider can access a person’s mental health history.

We have a focus on prevention, which is important, but I am proof that there will always be people that get to crisis point.

And for those people, the way they are treated needs to change.

In emergency departments there seems to be no clear pathway to deal with mental illness.

Mental health patients are often left to wait long periods in noisy, hectic waiting rooms.

For some (including myself), it’s too much to cope with and they leave without treatment. This can be deadly.

Funding is required to provide resources that allow systems to be implemented, which ensures timely and appropriate mental health treatment.

Calvary Clinic is a private facility in Launceston and it has the ability to take some public patients. This only occurs two to three times a year because of what appears to be reluctance from the LGH to refer people to them.

Whatever is the “block” in this process, it must be addressed.

As an advocate for mental health, I find it frustrating and disheartening.

It’s a complex issue and many people are doing good things and care.

But we are making it much harder than it needs to be.

And because of this, I am sure that, for some people it also gets too hard, too frustrating, too disheartening and they walk away, so that their own mental health does not suffer.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could make Tasmania the leading light in mental health treatment in Australia?

I believe that is what we should be aiming for, but brave, strong decisions will need to be made to achieve this.

  • Karalyn Hingston a Tasmanian mental health advocate.  If you or someone you know needs help contact Lifeline 131 114 or beyondblue 1300 224 636

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