Queensland Ambulance Service paramedics could be called anywhere, at any time, for a mental health episode. Picture: VMR
Queensland Ambulance Service paramedics could be called anywhere, at any time, for a mental health episode. Picture: VMR

Paramedics see an increase in mental health issues

THE chances are you or someone close to you has experienced, is living with, or will go through, anxiety and depression in Gladstone.

Episodes of mental heath due to COVID-19 and other lifestyle factors are on the increase, says the Queensland Ambulance Service, with more than 20 per cent more call-outs than last year.

More than three million Australians are currently living with depression or anxiety according to Beyond Blue.

Depression will impact 45 per cent of people through their lifetime.

But society isn't just sitting idle.

Shifting Minds: The Queensland Mental Health Alcohol and Other Drugs Strategic Plan 2018-2023, sets the five-year approach to improving the mental health and wellbeing of Queenslanders.

QAS statewide mental health program co-ordinator Sandra Garner said the latest statistics showed paramedic call-outs to mental health episodes had risen by more than 20 per cent compared with the same time in 2019.

"We are seeing people who have never accessed services before who are experiencing anxiety and depression ... those people are experiencing compromised mental health for the first time," she said.

Lifestyle factors including changes to their alcohol and drug consumption, impacts of their social situation, their vocational and economic situation, can all contribute to mental health concerns.

"We are also seeing an increase in people who would usually access a mental heath service, those people don't have the same level of access, such as only over the phone," Ms Garner said.

"Other people may not have the same level of social contact as they have experienced before, so they may not have been having that game of tenpin bowling on a Thursday, or haven't been able to meet up with their friends for the past three months.

"This is exacerbating existing mental health conditions."

Artius CQ regional operations manager Jo Paringatai said recognising the signs of anxiety and depression, such as increased absence from work or school, was the key to getting treatment swiftly.

"Anxiety disorders often develop during childhood and adolescence, although some can occur later in life, therefore we need to be aware of the mental health of our children, as well as ourselves," she said.

"With anxiety and depression we could see a disturbance in sleep, loss of appetite, distractibility, irritability, poor concentration, fretfulness and worry beyond what would be someone's usual demeanour."

"There may be increased physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach pains with no obvious physical cause."

Lifestyle factors can exacerbate mental health conditions, so prevention often starts with recognising those behaviours.

"Taking a holistic view of our health and ensuring we are eating well, sleeping well," Mrs Paringatai said.

"Do not overindulge in alcohol or unhealthy foods.

"Keep physically active and take an interest in our families and the communities in which we live.

"As parents we need to keep connected to our children, to provide love and attention, with clear and consistent boundaries, encouraging and supporting them."

All is not lost, there are now a wealth of resources for people seeking help.

"There are many resources online with websites like Beyond Blue," Mrs Paringatai said.

"Your GP is source of care and support with referral for services both funded and those requiring part payment with Medicare.

"People can also approach organisations like Artius, which is a private billing service, but can also bulk bill all pension card and health care card holders, to access psychological support."

"Others can be accessed directly such as, for young people aged 12-25, Headspace, which offers a range of programs and links to Roseberry Community Services offering a range of supports.

"Also there are alcohol and drug issues organisations such as Lives Lived Well, which is managing the new drug rehabilitation centre which has just opened in Rockhampton."

For advice on mental health issues call Artius on 1300 986 886, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.