Senator calls in to check on local mental health program

Cobar Primary Health Care staff members Genie McMullen, Georgie Brown and Kelly Leonard met with Senator Deborah O’Neill on Monday to discuss how the Outback Division of General Practice’s suicide prevention program is working in Cobar.

Labor Senator Deborah O’Neill, who is also the assistant shadow minister for mental health, paid a visit to Cobar on Monday to see first hand how a new suicide prevention program will work in our community.

Senator O’Neill has been looking at mental health programs in the region and came to Cobar to see what work the Cobar Primary Heath Care Centre staff are doing as part of the Outback Division of General Practice’s suicide prevention program for Cobar, Bourke and Walgett.

The western area suicide prevention program is one of 12 suicide prevention programs now running around the country.

“I am out here to find out what is going on and meet people on the ground.

“I have had an amazing morning here with all these talented and dedicated health professionals you have got, operating out of your community,” Senator O’Neill told The Cobar Weekly.

“I have been hearing about access to services. It’s a problem that I hear all across the country but particularly in rural and remote areas.”

The senator said she has also heard from staff working in the suicide prevention programs about a number of barriers they face in effectively delivering the services such as recruitment and retention of great people to provide the health services; the stop start nature of predominately State Government funding; and the way in which mental health is spoken about in the community.

“One thing we know is the risk rural communities (and the consequences in that) of people making the attempt to take their own life, or a death by suicide is a big problem out here and there are many facets with that.

“It’s never usually one thing that gets a person to that point.

“It’s multiple faceted and that’s why I have been very interested to hear about the Integrated Care model that has been adopted here that started three or four years ago around aged care.”

Senator O’Neill said she was also interested in finding out about issues around perinatal mental health and well being and the financial well being of pregnant women and their families having to move out of town at 38 weeks to await the delivery of a baby.

“That would have a significant effect on young mums waiting to have their children,” she said.

“One of the concerns I have from a national level is the impact of insurance policies and insurers making decisions about people’s eligibility for insurance based on medical health records.

“I will continue to watch what is going on here and I will certainly take that back to the parliament which I did after my recent visits to other sites,” Senator O’Neill said.

“One of the things that I am doing hopefully is sending a message to the community that this a conversation we all need to have.

“It’s in everybody’s families and everybody’s workplace, it’s in everybody’s community and suicide rates are telling us that it is a lot more prevalent than we would like it to be.”