See the original article in the Northern Star Weekly.

A South Morang-based clinical psychologist has backed a council-led push for more co-ordinated mental health services in the City of Whittlesea.

Dr Ben Buchanan, a clinical psychologist at the Plenty Valley Community Health-based Victorian Counselling and Psychological Services, said good mental health services weren’t available for people at the severe end of the mental health spectrum.

“You can access mental health services quite readily by visiting your GP and requesting a referral, but for people who are severely unwell, more engagement is needed,” Dr Buchanan said.

“We need a dedicated mental health facility that has the capacity to engage with people who don’t want to be engaged with.”

Huge parts of the council were without established neighbourhoods and social net- works and this correlated to disengagement and mental health problems among youths, he said.

Dr Buchanan deals with depression and anxiety sufferers between the ages of 13 and 25 on a daily basis and says that while he co-ordinates his patients’ care with their doctors, “the collaboration stops there”.

“We need to be able to co-ordinate a step up or step down approach to their care.”

In the lead-up to the state election, the Whittlesea Community Futures Partnership, which is made up of 45 multi-disciplinary agencies, including the council, is seeking $550,000 in state government funding to establish “desperately needed” youth mental health services in the City of Whittlesea.

Whittlesea mayor Mary Lalios said the municipality had higher reported levels of psychological distress in adolescents than the rest of northern metropolitan Melbourne.

“Yet there are no local services available,” said Cr Lalios. “Young people in need have to travel to Glenroy to access Headspace’s services – in an area that’s inaccessible by public transport.”

WCFP is calling for the establishment of a Headspace in Whittlesea and a service hub with clinical and non-clinical mental health services and practitioners collaborating in a partnership program.

“With the City of Whittlesea experiencing rapid population growth now and in the future, addressing this issue as soon as possible will help contain projected increases in demand,” Cr Lalios said.

The City of Whittlesea is one of Victoria’s fastest growing municipalities and its rapid transformation stretches services and infrastructure to the limits. A tipping point has been reached, with families on the edge. The Whittlesea Community Futures Partnership pledges to:

■ Advocate for fairer distribution of resources for the growing communities of the City of Whittlesea to ensure we create liveable communities in Melbourne’s fringe.

■ Work together in reducing the service gaps and improving the life outcomes of City of Whittlesea communities to ensure they are not disadvantaged by where they live.

■ Work in partnership with all levels of the government to support and ensure they fulfil their obligations in building sustainable and liveable communities in the City of Whittlesea.

Northern Weekly is supporting the initiative.