150 per cent increase in demand for services as Headspace stretched

Headspace Bega has reported a 150% increase in those accessing their service in the last financial year.
Headspace Bega has reported a 150% increase in those accessing their service in the last financial year.

The statistics coming out of Headspace on the NSW South Coast for the 2020-2021 financial year are alarming.

They show a 150 per cent increase in demand for the services aimed at those aged between 12 and 25 years of age in Bega.

And the trend isn't unique to the South Coast town, with services Australia wide reporting an increase in disordered eating, anxiety, low mood, feeling isolated, family stress, environmental stress, and struggling with the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic.

Headspace Bega mental health service manager Brianna Van Leeuwen said there was a waitlist.

"With the way the world is at the moment young people are certainly looking for support, we do have a bit of a waitlist because the demand is really high, so I think when you hear that it is hard to access services it is probably true."

There have been a number of reports across the Bega Valley Shire that young people were finding access to psychologists and psychiatrists increasing difficult, with parents reporting longer wait times than ever before.

However, Van Leeuwen said Headspace always had ways to assist young people needing immediate support.

"We offer interim support services with our peer worker or one of our work and study support workers or with a youth care coordinator, depending on their needs."

"If young people need support and need immediate support we try and meet their needs as best we can if they can't immediately access one of our mental health clinicians here," she said.

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She highlighted the way mental health was spoken about could be really restricting for people and that psychologists and psychiatrists were not the only professionals who could assist with mental health services.

"There are other people who are not psychologists who are really skilled in delivering mental health care and are funding under Medicare to delivery mental health care but because we talk about psychologists, people can get really fixated that that's the only person they can see that might be able to support them.

"Particularly in our regional areas, we have a pretty big workforce of social workers, occupational therapists, and mental health nurses who are also really skilled and capable of supporting people," she said.

According to Headspace, the best place to start for anyone experiencing mental health concerns is always to speak to a GP who can asses their patient for a mental health treatment plan.

The first place to start seeking help is through your GP who can assist with a mental health care treatment plan.

The first place to start seeking help is through your GP who can assist with a mental health care treatment plan.

Ms Van Leeuwen said two new clinicians had started at Headspace Bega and be able to see individuals sooner who come with a mental health care plan.

This care plan allows for individuals to access up to 20 sessions based on a review system between the mental health professional and GP.

The MBS (Better Access) initiative was upgraded from 10 to 20 sessions due to the pandemic by the federal government in response to on October 9, 2020 and this will continue until June 30, 2022.

This means all eligible Australians experiencing a severe or enduring mental health response to COVID-19 would be able to access additional session through the Medicare subsidised psychological therapy program.

What can parents or guardians do to support the mental health of their young people? 

For many parents of young people, the increase in figures for those seeking mental health treatment could be alarming, but Ms Van Leeuwen said their service also offered support for parents or guardians.

"We really welcome parents to come and see us at Headspace, so even if their young person isn't willing or ready to get that support, we offer support for families, either with their young person or without them, so parents can certainly come and speak to us about how they can support their young people."

Service groups for young people to contact

Lifeline 13 11 14

Headspace Bega 1800 959 844

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

This story 150 per cent increase in demand for services as Headspace stretched first appeared on Bega District News.