Editorial: PHN regional health plan is sober reading

The cover of the Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, Alcohol and other Drugs Services regional plan.
The cover of the Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, Alcohol and other Drugs Services regional plan.

The Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, Alcohol and other Drugs Services regional plan came out a few weeks ago but I must admit I missed it initially.

The plan covers the period from 2017 to 2020 and was produced by Western Queensland Primary Health Network. 

PHNs were formed by the federal government as an independent not for profit company. The Western Queensland PHN covers the three state government Western Queensland Hospital and Health Services (the NWHHS based in Mount Isa, the Central West HHS in Longreach and the South West HHS in Roma) and is aimed to create “an entity to foster partnerships with funders and providers to improve primary healthcare service delivery to the people of Western Queensland.”

Whether it achieves that is a moot point given its huge geographical spread but its Regional Plan is sober reading

The report says one in five Australians experience some form of mental health or alcohol or drug issue every year, and one in four young adults aged between 16 and 24 will be currently experiencing such issues and these numbers were likely to be much higher in our region because of our high level of socio-economic disadvantage.

In Western Queensland people go to a hospital emergency department with mental health concerns 1.6 times more often than in Queensland as a whole, and risky alcohol consumption is 1.4 times more common (KBC Australia, 2016). Suicide and self-inflicted injury rates are twice as high in Western Queensland than in Australia as a whole, and are substantially higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than non-Indigenous Australians.

The report is the latest in a long line that shows our region is at the bottom when it comes to most health indicators.

Fixing these problems isn’t easy but getting the right help at the right time and in the right place will be essential to improving the mental health and wellbeing of our people. “We must recognise warning signs and know how to support our friends, neighbours and families to prevent problems from worsening. Preventing harm during childhood and building resilience among our children will be hugely protective of their future health and wellbeing,” the report said. – Derek Barry