Meander Valley Gazette

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Spiralling suicide concerns

NewsJoanne Eisemann

November 2018 | Sharon Webb

MEANDER VALLEY’S suicide rate is spiralling according to councillors demanding the return of three health workers dumped two years ago by the Federal Government. In a submission to the Australian Senate, Meander Valley Council maintains removal of the workers and resources providing mental health prevention programs has caused increased suicides and deteriorating behavior from people with mental health problems.

The submission maintains that after 12 years of success, the workers’ removal has had a “grave impact on the well-being of communities”. Shocking submission facts include: • Eleven suicides since the workers were removed in December 2016; • At least two previously supported clients gaoled; • Many examples of deteriorating behavior among previously settled clients; • Loss of contact with vulnerable residents.

The Senate submission was instigated in September by former Councillor Bob Richardson. Councillors met representatives of local health service providers to gather the necessary information. In Cllr Richardson’s September motion to make a submission to the Senate committee on regional health services he said mental health trends in the municipality were “disturbing”. “These three (preventative) health positions had a positive effect on health in the Meander Valley over many years...

The Coalition Government instead offered un-needed funding for diabetes education,” he said. Councillors pull no punches in the hard-hitting submission, criticising the lack of mental health nurses and youth workers, minimal psychologist access and only one hard-pushed social worker. “Meander Valley … had services and staff in place which provided a broad range of activities and interventions and impacted positively on community morale across all ages,” they say. “Removal of these services has resulted in a rapid deterioration in its mental health status as evidenced by a spiralling suicide rate.” The submission maintains GPs are the first resource for people with mental health problems – but doctors “lack the capacity to provide ongoing programs and counselling to patients and tend to rely on medication as a main management option.”