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Youth mental health concerns prompt online service

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A not-for-profit organisation has launched an online telehealth service to support adolescent mental health particularly among Indigenous Australians after identifying a “huge” demand due to the pandemic’s impact on jobs and families.

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Community GP last week launched its bulk-billed virtual consultation service aiming to connect young people – specifically 13-25-year-olds – with GPs to discuss mental health concerns.

“At the organisation we’ve been seeing and hearing huge numbers of people reaching out for support, who are concerned about loss of job or the stress of uncertainty in family situations,” Community GP founder and GP Lane Hinchliffe told InDaily.

“There’s been a lot of stresses that have come from this that have prompted people, who maybe have never had concerns before, to say ‘What do I do? I need to talk to somebody.’

“It is a real crisis point and we want to offer a solution.”

Community GP also operates bulk-billed Winmante Medical Centre in Morphett Vale to provide health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but the decision to close its doors and go online during the crisis prompted a wider approach.

“This idea of Community GP Connect is to provide an online GP clinic specifically aimed at youth, adolescent patients, who might be experiencing some anxiety or other mental have concerns particularly in relation to the current climate,” Hinchliffe said.

“We want teenagers and youth to know it is okay not to be okay at this time.

“There is a reported increase in people suffering from stress, anxiety and depressive symptoms due to financial stress, job loss and insecurity, social isolation due to the strict lockdown measures, change in routine and the uncertainty of when this will end.

Community GP Connect can be accessed over-the-phone or online and consultations start at 15 minutes and go for 30.

Consultations are bulk-billed for anyone with a Medicare card.

The GPs can create mental health care plans and refer patients to experts when required.

Hinchliffe said he was worried about the mental health of young Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander people in particular during the crisis, as many may not have access to general medical support or telehealth services.

“The stress for the Aboriginal community has been horrendous over this time and in terms of the youth, I think it’s exactly the same,” he said.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is one of our target groups [to focus on] because… the evidence is we’re not doing a good enough job to Close the Gap in health outcomes.

“Now we’ve had this crisis worldwide, I think that time will tell how that’s going to affect our youth there as well.

“We need to do more.”

Closing the Gap is a government strategy aimed at reducing disadvantage among Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander people with respect to life expectancy, child mortality, access to early childhood education, educational achievement and employment outcomes.

Although data from the latest Closing the Gap report shows First Nations children were enrolling into early education and completing Year 12, other issues such as infant mortality, employment and life expectancy  considered a “national priority”  had not been significantly improved.

Only two out of the seven original 2008 targets were on track to be met.

Hinchliffe said the bulk-billed consultations will be offered indefinitely.

If this article has raised issues for you, you can call LifeLine 24 hours a day seven days a week by dialling 13 11 14. Beyond Blue and headspace are other national organisations offering comprehensive mental health support. 

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