Police Ramped Outside Queensland Hospitals Amid Escalating Mental Health Crisis
Queensland police have been pressed to ramp outside hospitals with mentally unwell patients amid a spike in suicide attempts.
A top police officer has told the Courier Mail that hospital pressures are over-flowing, with police responding to about 140 calls a day from people threatening suicide.
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The rate of suicides in Queensland has jumped 58 per cent in just six-years, and despite rates plateauing during early stages if the pandemic, researchers and mental health workers are concerned over delayed effects.
Black Dog Institute associate Professor Fiona Shand flagged caution back in November 2020, warning that over time people would disassociate from survival mode seen early on in the pandemic.
"In the early days there was that strong sense of social cohesion, of getting through it together, that people weren't alone in struggling with things like unemployment," she said in late 2020.
"Also, being able to see that there might be an end to this, actually helps people to maintain hope," she said. "[But] we do know that there are pockets of variation".
"There are some regions for example where we think we are seeing some increases, there are probably some groups in the population who are more at risk, perhaps people on lower incomes, people who are more at risk of long-term unemployment."
- Prof Shand
Domestic, Family Violence and Vulnerable Persons Command Acting Assistant Commissioner Peter Brewer said the state was experiencing a mental health crisis with police responding to almost 1000 calls a week from Queenslanders experiencing suicidality and other episodes.
“We are affected by ramping issues”, he told parliament’s Mental Health Select Committee.
“There can be delays of many hours at times where police have to stay with that person until the point they’re actually assessed and that does take them off the road”
“So, they are effectively ramped at a hospital for that period of time,” he said.
It comes as the latest data revealed Queensland's ramping episodes were worse than Victoria and NSW during the last quarter.
“Sometimes the Queensland ambulance service will be tied up, there are no units available, and so the police are there having to make a choice about how we actually intervene in that situation,” Mr Brewer said.
Mr Brewer said despite rostering police and paramedics for peak times, there were times “where we lose control” because “the need for services exceeds what’s available at that point in time”.
Australians needing support throughout the COVID-19 pandemic can access the Beyond Blue Coronavirus Wellbeing Support Service any time via telephone at 1800 512 348 or online at coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au
Anyone experiencing distress can also seek immediate advice and support through Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), or the Government’s digital mental health gateway, Head to Health.
If you are concerned about suicide, living with someone who is considering suicide, or bereaved by suicide, the Suicide Call Back Service is available at 1300 659 467 or www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au
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