Brimbank battling mental ill-health


Gerald Lynch

A recent report by the North Western Primary Health Network (NWMPHN) has found Brimbank to be among the poorest ranked municipalities for mental health, with a number of factors at fault.

According to the report, Brimbank stands out as the LGA throughout Melbourne’s north and west with the greatest level of social disadvantage.

It also has a high level of need related to risk factors that research shows have negative effects on mental health and wellbeing.

These include low income, food insecurity, low English proficiency, developmental vulnerability, family violence and high rates of adult obesity.

With over 40 per cent of residents born in non-English speaking countries and speaking a language other than English at home, the NWMPHN region is more culturally and linguistically diverse than the rest of Victoria.

English proficiency across the region varied, with notably lower levels in Brimbank, Hume, and Maribyrnong.

A relatively low liveability index in Brimbank indicated there is insufficient public transport access, health infrastructure or access to healthy food.

These factors could be impacting the mental health and wellbeing of residents.

A high proportion of residents in Brimbank report high or very high psychological distress.

Barriers to accessing care are further exacerbated by psychologist workforce shortages in this LGA.

Brimbank is the third highest ranked LGA for percentage of population with two or more chronic health conditions, however, which is lower than the state average.

NWMPHN executive director of service development and reform Jagjit Dhaliwal said things need to be improved at all levels including societal and governmental to see an improvement in mental health struggles.

“First and foremost, it’s about ensuring everyone who is seeking mental health care, either for themselves or a loved one, gets the right type of support. This looks different for everyone,” he said.

“Some people might benefit from group counselling, others might prefer a one-on-one chat over the phone or online. Others need more complex support and might have other things going on in their lives, such as alcohol and drug use, or chronic pain.

“At NWMPHN we’re also looking at how we can make every single part of our health system more adaptable to each individual person’s need.

“Our health care workers do a great job once someone needs their support, but more can be done at the preventative end.”