Psychologists are travelling to South Australia’s mid-north for regular face-to-face consultations in response to “worsening” mental health in the region.
- Northern Areas Council at Jamestown has made rooms available for psychologists
- Face-to-face sessions are not usually possible in mid-north SA
- A Jamestown doctor says mental health is becoming a bigger problem in the area
The Northern Areas Council has offered free space at the council-owned medical centre in Jamestown for visiting mental health professionals to see patients.
Residents needing psychological help would normally have to talk to a specialist over the phone or travel almost three hours to Adelaide.
The idea was initiated by Adelaide-based clinical psychologist Lisa Chantler, who already knew the region and how locals struggled to access mental healthcare.
“We’re thrilled to have the support of the council,” Dr Chantler said.
Long waiting times for psychologists
Jamestown GP Simon Jackson said two other psychologists currently providing services in the mid-north had waiting lists of a year or more.
“We’ve had increasing numbers of suicides locally,” Dr Jackson said.
“We’ve had a lot more mental health presentations in the GP clinic and the emergency department has also seen more mental health-related problems.”
Under the arrangement, there are rooms available at the Jamestown Medical Centre for two psychologists to see patients two days a fortnight.
He praised the council’s decision to offer in-kind support.
“In this case, it’s fantastic that local government has started the investment,” Dr Jackson said.
“We just need a little bit more from the state and federal government.”
Call for state government support
It is an unusual positive development in regional healthcare, which is suffering in many parts of country Australia because of a GP shortage.
“There are very complex factors at play here and I know there are significant workforce shortages, but I guess if a little clinical practice such as ours, which is small in the scheme of things, can get something up and running, I’d like to think that the state government could come to the party as well,” Dr Chantler said.
Northern Areas Council Mayor Ben Browne said the council would provide as much space as needed to allow visiting clinicians to see patients face to face.
“We have those two particular rooms that we’ve discussed but any other facilities that we have within the council area in Laura or Gladstone or anywhere else, if they decide they need them we will provide them as well,” Cr Browne said.
There is a possibility the service could be expanded to more days per fortnight.
South Australia Health has been contacted for a response.