Emergency departments across the Grampians region are dealing with much higher numbers of people needing treatment for self harm than other parts of the state.
In their submission to the Royal Commission in to Victoria's Mental Health System, Ballarat Health Services outlined high levels of psychological distress and self harm in the region and mental health services struggling to provide for patients living in more remote areas.
According to figures in the submission, the rate of intentional injury treated in hospital per 1000 population in Ballarat was 6.5, more than twice the state average of 3.1.
Horsham had the highest rate at 8.3 cases per 1000 population while the overall rate for the region was 4.8, more than 50 per cent higher than the Victorian average.
"Self harm presentations are an unfortunate reality in many areas. They are a symptom of the broader issue," said Ben Kelly, executive director of acute operations at Ballarat Health Service.
"The key message for us is the challenge for rural areas in accessing mental health services." All of the region's mental health beds are in Ballarat, making it difficult to access for people who live further from town.
Community engagement is critical in any change. The opportunity to educate the community at large about mental illness, treatment and care options and service facilities available to the Victorian public are important to break down the stereotyping and stigma of not only those suffering a mental illness, but also the associated stigma for those that work in mental health services, and the stigma surrounding the services that are provided.Extract from the BHS submission to the Royal Commission in to Victoria's Mental Health System
"We'd like to see a roll-out of sub-acute beds closer to the centre of the region," he said.
In the BHS submission, experts said the Prevention and Recovery Care (PARC) model was working well in other regions and should be expanded in regional and remote areas. Ballarat is the final health area in Victoria to receive a PARC facility, with construction underway on Pleasant St for Ballarat's 12-bed PARC centre which is expected to open next year.
The PARC model provides a 'step up, step down' facility for those experiencing the early stages of an acute mental illness, or in the early stages of recovery from a mental illness episode where admission to an acute inpatient unit is not warranted.
The BHS submission also noted that community-based mental health services could be complex and challenging to navigate, creating 'silos' within area mental health services because of a lack of integration between specialist teams and better communication was needed.
It also said more housing options and treatment for those with alcohol and other drug addictions were necessary, as was greater support for families of those living with mental illness.
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