Member for Wide Bay Llew' O'Brien has responded to the Burnett’s mental health crisis. Photo/File
Member for Wide Bay Llew' O'Brien has responded to the Burnett’s mental health crisis. Photo/File

‘Need to do more’: MP on new Burnett mental health facility

FEDERAL Wide Bay MP Llew O’Brien acknowledges more needs to be done to reduce the number of people taking their lives in the Burnett and said he is working to create a mental health facility in the region.

Mr O’Brien, a former police officer and current ambassador for Beyond Blue, knows all too well the importance of expanding frontline services for mental health and admitted there is still significant work to be done to reduce the Burnett‘s dismal suicide rates, particularly for the younger community members in his electorate in Cherbourg and Murgon.

Mr O‘Brien revealed discussions have centred around opening a new facility.

“The Federal Member for Maranoa David Littleproud and I have been pushing for increased mental health support in the South Burnett for several years and have met with Health Minister Greg Hunt to discuss the possibility of opening a headspace service in Kingaroy with a satellite service in Murgon and Cherbourg,” he said.

“We will continue to work with the Health Minister to advocate for improved mental health services in the South Burnett, and will also work to highlight the availability of existing services.

“Young people in South Burnett who are not able to access a headspace site, or prefer to access services digitally, can also get support through eheadspace, the national online and phone support service, which is staffed by experienced youth mental health professionals.”

Residents in the Burnett are living through a mental health crisis, with more people in the region taking their own lives than anywhere else in the sunshine state.

A report released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare this week identified the Burnett region as having the highest suicide rate per capita than anywhere else in Queensland.

Between 2015-2019, suicide tragically claimed 67 Burnett lives.

These preventable deaths are linked to several factors including a lack of access to mental health services and mental health professionals in the region.

Mr O’Brien pointed to the Queensland Government as the ones who should take the brunt of responsibility, outlining the provision of health services including mental health is a primary responsibility of the State Government.

“Mental health services in the South Burnett region are co-ordinated by the Darling Downs and West Moreton (DDWM) Primary Health Network (PHN) and the Australian Government is supporting these services by providing $38 million to DDWM PHN from 2020–21 to 2022–23 for primary mental health and suicide prevention services,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Tragically, a number of young people in those communities have lost their lives to suicide this year and it is clear that the Federal and State Governments need to do more to address mental health in the region.”

The DDWM PHN funds 13 service providers to support the mental health needs of the South Burnett including suicide prevention, youth services, counselling, psychological therapies and social and emotional wellbeing.

This includes several services specifically targeted at children and young people.

The services are provided through Lives Lived Well, CRAICCHS (Aboriginal Medical Service), Healthwise, Richmond Fellowship, Burnett Allied Care, Nadine Hinchcliffe, RHealth, EACH, Therapy Pro, Yourthrive, Catholic Care, Lifelife and Impact Community Services.

The DDWM PHN is also working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to implement culturally-based suicide prevention activities, guided by the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy.

In addition to the PHN funding, the Government provides funding to Wesley Mission to support LifeForce Suicide Prevention Networks and there is a network located in Cherbourg which meets monthly.

These networks aim to build community capacity to engage in suicide prevention activity, support those at risk of suicide and those bereaved by suicide.

The Australian Government also funds a number of national services that are available to all Australians, including those in the South Burnett.

These include:

  • Clinical services through GPs and psychologists through the MBS, including via telehealth
  • Head to Health, the digital mental health portal, which provides access to a variety of free or low cost mental health services.
  • eheadspace which provides young people and carers with a safe, secure and anonymous place to talk to a professional – wherever they are.
  • The online supported mental health service, MindSpot
  • Helplines and counselling services such as Beyond Blue, Lifeline, PANDA, ED Hope and Kids Helpline

Further to this, on November 16, Prime Minister Scott Morrison released the final report of the Productivity Commission Inquiry into mental health, which is one of the most comprehensive and significant reviews of mental health care in Australia.

The Government will now carefully consider the recommendations of the Commission, and this will shape the future delivery of mental health services in Australia.

Mr O’Brien said is a passionate advocate for improved mental health services and spoke about suicide, mental health and the challenges faced in Wide Bay in his Maiden Speech at Parliament.

“I am also a Bureau Speaker for Beyond Blue, which sees me publicly talking to groups about my mental health story in an attempt to reduce the stigma associated with anxiety and depression,” he said.

“I‘ve continued to speak about mental health in and out of the parliament and I’ve had success ensuring that Wide Bay is part of a $3 million federal government-funded suicide prevention trial as well as securing headspace services for Maryborough and Gympie, and I hope to achieve the same for the South Burnett.”

If you or someone needs someone to talk to, call LifeLine on 13 11 14.

For a full list of local services click here

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