IN the first edition of our special four-part series, Ipswich Local outlined how the first ever LANA report is shining a light on the state of the region’s healthcare.
And one of the key findings produced from the LANA report has done just that – shone a light on a traditionally unseen health epidemic plaguing Ipswich and our surrounding regions.
This ‘other pandemic’ is the dire state of our community’s mental health, with LANA unveiling alarming statistics requiring urgent community attention and healthcare intervention.
West Moreton Health Board Chair Michael Willis said the LANA report produced a needs assessment that has preventative measures as a major focus.
“The strategy is to provide safe quality care, listening to our patients and addressing their needs,” Mr Willis said.
And with the region’s mental health fairing increasingly worse, this ‘other pandemic’ is now positioned at forefront of these preventative needs.
Across WMH Regions, LANA found higher mental and behavioural problems were occurring across Ipswich and surrounding regions compared with the rest of Queensland.
In fact, mental health related issues were the largest health condition presented to the WMH workforce, with a whopping 140,301 people identified as having mental health concerns between 2019 and 2020.
This is a figure higher almost four per cent higher than the Queensland average and by March 2021 a further 49,464 cases of mental health issues were reported, becoming the highest recorded condition among all ages across all regions.
Mental Health and Specialised Services Executive Director Emma Foreman said mental health is a growing concern across the state and among the region’s population.
“Our data shows mental health concerns, ranging from mild to severe, are higher for our region, at 6.1%,” Ms Foreman said.
The LANA report notes the region faces ‘high levels of psychological distress’, with particular concern for communities in Brassall, Leichhardt, One Mile and Bundamba.
This distress was exacerbated for First Nations peoples, with 33 per cent of First Nations people 15 years or older reporting ‘high to very high levels of psychological distress’, a figure more than twice the levels reported for non-indigenous Australians according to the 2016 ABS.
This ‘other pandemic’ is only appearing to worsen too, with the LANA report and Ms Foreman both citing the fact that mental health readmission rates are steadily increasing.
“Our 28-day mental health readmission rates were higher in 2021 at 14.4 per cent than the rest of Queensland (13.1 per cent),” Ms Foreman said. While this figure did drop to 7.3 per cent in 2022, the most concerning aspect of this ‘other pandemic’ is the finding that children and young people are bearing its brunt.
A staggering 75 per cent of mental health issues were found to occur before the age of 25 and data comparing 2016 statistics shows a 27 per cent increase of people under 18 are now experiencing mental health issues across our region.
Rural communities were also spotlighted as concerns, with farmers and their families in the Somerset and Lockyer Valley regions facing tough environmental conditions and social isolation, translating into dire mental health outcomes.
The major benefit of the LANA report findings is that by shining a light on this ‘other pandemic’ the need for early intervention strategies which can alleviate the toll of this mental health pandemic now become paramount.
Because as the LANA report acknowledges, our local health systems are simply not meeting the demands of this crisis, with young people now reporting experiences of being turned away from acute mental health services due to capacity constraints.
With things only expected to get worse in the coming years, as noted by the Child and Youth Mental Health (CYMHS) alarming projection of an increase of up to 85,444 occasions of mental health services being required by 2026, a staggering increase of almost 230 per cent, the need to address this ‘other pandemic’ begins by facing these harsh truths head on.
As the LANA report and Ms Foreman highlight, there is a need for high quality and timely emergency mental health and alcohol and other drug related services across our region.
“To support those members of the community, West Moreton Health has many existing and new services and initiatives that continue to be developed and supported,” Ms Foreman said.
“These include providing a second CYMHS service at Goodna and extending the hours of service in the Ipswich Hospital Emergency Department.
“West Moreton Health is also offering an Assertive Mobile Youth Outreach Service and hosting the ‘Talkin’ it Up Regional Youth Mental Health Forum’ to connect high school students with mental health services, build awareness and reduce the stigma.”
Ms Foreman said that WMH is also establishing the Youth Advisory Council to investigate how we can improve service areas identified by the council as priorities.
“We are working hard to meet the needs of the community and supports many services and initiatives, including developing a regional mental health plan,” Ms Foreman said.
“We are also increasing our bed capacity through the construction of a new multi-storey Acute Mental Health Unit which will open in 2023 and Emu Café at Ipswich Hospital will soon provide an evening support service for people experiencing a mental health crisis.”