Benalla mental health services
22 March 2016
22 March 2016
Ms RYAN (Euroa) — My adjournment tonight is for the attention of the Minister for Mental Health, and I am grateful to him for being at the table tonight. The action I seek is an urgent review of mental health services in Benalla to ensure that they are sufficient to meet the needs of young people in our region. Over the weekend, while many people were on a high from the amazing success of the Wall to Wall festival, we experienced tragedy. I am concerned about the welfare of the many young people affected by the weekend's events. There has been an outpouring of grief among young people in the community, and I urge the government to put outreach services in place in the short term while they endeavour to come to terms with this loss.
While Benalla P–12 College has brought in additional counsellors to work with the student body this week, it is gravely concerned about a number of very vulnerable students who will not have access to support during the coming school holiday period. In order to access services outside of the school environment, students must travel to Wangaratta to access state government-funded services through North East Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. It is my understanding that the service is not adequately funded to provide outreach services in Benalla, and students must therefore travel to Wangaratta.
Benalla Health also runs a counselling service; however, it is not youth specific and has a waiting list, as I understand. The town has no headspace, the closest being located in Shepparton, a 45-minute drive away. While headspace has been at the college today to provide advice, it is not funded to deliver services in Benalla. Many young people in Benalla are not old enough to drive or do not have the support structures around them needed to access headspace or the state-funded services in Wangaratta. These gaps in the delivery of mental health services for young people in our community need to be examined and addressed. In the short term it is critical that we ensure mental health services are increased while a longer term solution is sought.
I was contacted today by a young man who shared his own experience with me out of concern for his peers. He travels to Wodonga to visit a specialist and to Wangaratta to see a psychologist. In his own words:
There is just nothing in this town to make the youth and young adults feel like there's the proper help and support needed to get through dark times, and life's lows.
The youth of Benalla honestly needs so much help … I worry for so many more of the kids and others in this town. I don't even know where to start to try and begin to help.