A new petition is calling on government for better youth mental health support


The petition was headed by young woman Laura Johnson after years of watching her sister Gabbi, 17, suffer from multiple mental health disorders, including anorexia.

Her mother Kaylene Johson said change needed to happen now.

"[Laura's] watched her sister be discharged from hospital time and time again, only to be right back there again," Ms Johnson said.

"She's watching her sister destroy herself. It's not her fault; it's the disorder.

"Kids keep [their feelings] quiet for so long. They shouldn't have to get to the point of hospitalisation to get the help they need."

The petition is being put forward to the state government to call for support for youth with mental health challenges including eating disorders.

Specifically, there is a call for increased investment into training specialist mental health professionals, broader community education about the impacts of mental health and eating disorders and improved facilities for treatment.

In the interim of this infrastructure being established, there is a push for patients who require transfer to Victoria for specialised care unavailable in Tasmania to receive funding support.

Recently, the Johnsons had to travel to Hobart to receive treatment for Gabbi as the city has a dedicated eating disorder clinic.

"Travelling from Smithton to Hobart - we were lucky to have support behind us. Not everyone can afford to get to Hobart."

And even then, treatment was only able to be short-term.

"We need clinics and resources up this end of the state," she said. "There's nothing out here for teenagers.

"It's not good enough.

"It's not the fault of the hospital, it's that there's not the training or resources in place.

"So many people on the North-West Coast need this support but it takes time and funds to make change happen."

She said her family hopes politicians will take this issue and petition seriously by so that real change can occur.

"We want young people to have a voice, to be able to speak up and get help before they feel like there is no help out there for them," Mrs Johnson said.

"It's not drugs, it's not misbehaviour. Mental health can just get young people into a hole they can't get out of."

The petition is supported by Murchison independent MLC Ruth Forrest.

MLC Ruth Forrest is supporting the petition put forth by the Johnsons. PICTURE: Brodie Weeding

She said it was clear this was an issue that requires urgent attention.

"It's not like this is a new problem. We need to be able to provide timely support to young people so they can get their lives back on track," Ms Forrest said.

"It's so traumatic for families to be constantly seeking treatment that isn't adequate or requires travelling. It's hard enough if you're in Tasmania and have to travel three hours or so."

"Having to go interstate brings a whole other level of complexity."

Currently, there is $4 million allocated in the budget to start implementing the outcomes of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services Review, a report aimed at enabling an integrated pathway for children, adolescents and their families and carers to navigate the mental health system.

The State Government also recently released a response to the review with the intent of implementing all the comprehensive recommendations for service improvements put forward.

Ms Forrest said there is such an unmet demand for mental health support resources across the board that receiving it anywhere is a positive thing.

However, she wants to see bigger levels of funding and said more needs to be done to address the unique challenges in Tasmania's regions.

"This affects Tasmanians all around the state," she said. "Money is being promised - let's get it delivered and targeted correctly."

"Even in the Huon Valley or along the east coast it's just as hard to access timely treatment.

"Mental health challenges know no barriers."

The petition can be signed until March 19 at lcepetitions.parliament.tas.gov.au/lcepet

(Source)

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