It’s time to do something about mental health services

I AM writing to you about the article in the November 7 edition of The Northern Daily Leader– “Ministers listen to concerns”. I’m not sure who wrote the story. It is good to see our local newspaper writing about things we do need in Tamworth and in other country towns.

I’m still asking people to show their concerns and help by signing a petition I have had going since April 2012. I have had loads of support from the community.

A few things that have disappointed me in the story though are the use of the words “mentally-ill children”. I have never used these words to describe our youth who have problems. I have always classed them as “youth who have mental health barriers” as I see these issues as barriers in their lives.

We have a lot of places and health professionals in Tamworth like CAMS, Centrecare, Life Solutions, Anglicare, doctors, paediatricians, counsellors and now Headspace is coming, but the reality is they are all 8.30-9am to 5-5.30pm, Monday to Friday services. What happens after these hours for our youth who need help?

Parents cannot, and will not, tell their child to hold off until one of these services is open. These youths cannot pick if and when they need medical or counselling help if they suffer a breakdown. Parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and carers need to call an ambulance or the police to get help.

At Tamworth hospital children in this predicament are assessed and maybe hospitalised. The children’s ward is not equipped to have a youth with barriers patient and it is also not fair on the younger children and their families who are in the ward recovering from surgery or illness.

Banksia is not a place for these youths. It’s an adults unit and if a youth is placed there a nurse has to accompany them when they are out of their room. 

This is why I am fighting to gain a facility for young people between the ages of five and 17 years in Tamworth. A facility would ensure they can be observed, medicated and get the help and not have to travel to Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital or onto Sydney.

There is nothing worse than seeing your child self harming/breaking down and to be told take them home, put a mattress beside your bed and make them sleep there for punishment. These youths don’t need punishment, they need help.

I am tired of some medical staff blaming parents/child conflict. This has been known to be put on medical reports. But there are families out there who are screaming for help 

and doors are being slammed in their faces or told “we have done all we can do”.

Mr Humphries said to me I need to take this matter up with mental health services in Tamworth. I have spoken to Hunter/New England Health and they are aware of the situation.

Mr Humphries also said in The Northern Daily Leader he would be happy to talk to me about the issue in the future. He also told me to write a letter and send it to his office. 

I did write to him earlier this year asking for him to attend a meeting I held at Tamworth High School in April but he declined. On Monday, November 5 I asked to meet with him, and once again I had no success. I briefly spoke to him just before the main community cabinet meeting and I did get to put the matter forward at the meeting, but personally I think it fell on deaf ears.

The youth that have these barriers are also our future. If we don’t help them now, what happens to them later in life? 

Mr Humphries and the government need to step up and do something for rural towns and do more than what they are doing at present.

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