Mildura students fight for rural mental health reforms

SUCCESS! Pleased with their Bill triumph are, left to right: Eliza Bessell-Tafengatoto, Josh May, Taurie Bishop, Jack Smith, Georgia Leutner and Brady Glen.

By Medha Vernekar

The timing could not have been better for six Mildura students attending the recent sitting of the YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament.

The team, comprising Josh May, Jack Smith, Brady Glen, Georgia Leutner, Eliza Bessell-Tafengatoto and Taurie Bishop tabled a Bill focused on increasing access to mental health treatment in regional Victoria on July 2, the same day as the start of the public hearings for the Royal Commission into Victoria’s mental health system. 

The Mental Health Workforce Initiatives Bill proposed work placements for psychology students in their final year of university study to address the shortage of psychologists in rural areas. 

“The idea behind the Bill was to have fully-trained psychologists living in rural areas to take the trainees under their wing, and support them in all areas of their placements,” Jack said.

The Mildura team believes the proposal would help new psychologists to understand the issues surrounding mental health in regional areas such as isolation and stigma.

“In a small town, where everybody knows everybody, having mental health problems is met with the ‘she’ll be right’ mentality that plagues rural communities, Brady said. 

The team believes its Bill would assist with the long wait times faced by at-risk individuals in their community when attempting to get help. 

“We hope this Bill creates a more equitable environment for people to access treatment,” team leader Josh said. 

The Bill was passed unanimously in the Legislative Assembly and will now be forwarded to the relevant State Government Minister.

The YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament gives young people aged 16 – 25 a chance to be heard in State politics. More than 25 youth parliamentarian Bills have gone onto become State legislation. 

*Medha Vernekar is a member of the YMCA Youth Press Gallery.

This article originally appeared on Mildura Weekly, July 19, 2019.

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