Students fight to increase the post-discharge support of acute patients
10 September 2020 at 5:21 pm
A bill being debated in the YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament aims to ensure that individuals who choose to leave hospital after being admitted due to a mental health crisis receive ongoing support, writes Annette Syahlani, a journalist for YMCA Youth Press Gallery 2020.
Members of the Central Highlands Youth Advisory Board (CHYAB) are fighting for increased support for recently discharged acute patients in the YMCA Victoria Youth Parliament.
Youth Parliament is a program that gives young Victorians a chance to enact structural change at state government.
Every year, participants research and create a bill on state issues they are passionate about to be debated in the parliamentary chambers. While in-person debates are no longer possible due to COVID-19, the finalised bill will be handed to the Minister for Youth Ros Spence on 28 September.
For the CHYAB members – Chloe Wadell, Zac Eaton, Gabriel Gervasoni, Katie Balharrie, Chloe Rae and Eliza Tolfrey – this is an exciting opportunity to advocate for improved mental health support to become part of state-wide legislation.
Through this bill, CHYAB aims to ensure that an individual who is voluntarily released from hospital following an admission due to a mental health crisis receives ongoing support.
Currently, voluntary patients can leave at any point during their medical experience – before they’ve been seen by a medical professional, before treatment, or at any step of the process. CHYAB believes they may still be at risk of another mental health crisis that requires emergency assistance.
“It often takes that one second to say ‘no I don’t want this support anymore’, and they are gone without the ongoing relationship with a healthcare professional… There must be a system that gives… a regular check up to ensure the patients are still okay,” Wadell said.
The bill proposes a post-engagement welfare check, whereby an authorised healthcare professional must attempt to contact the discharged person to ensure their safety and provide support or resources for their mental wellbeing.
Wadell said if it is not the right time for the patient to get treatment, then healthcare professionals should assure their patients that they can still look for help and make sure they are not too embarrassed to return.
“Knowing that someone actually cares is great for mental health. That even if they are falling through the cracks, there is still support,” Wadell said.
Eaton believes this issue could be exacerbated by the pandemic.
“With COVID-19, we are aware that almost all of our services are cancelled and most patients must go home. There is even a chance that they won’t follow up with their psychologist,” Eaton said.
That’s why, the team is proposing this bill so that no mental health patient will slip through the cracks.
“If we’re going to make a big change, why not do it in the middle of a pandemic,” Wadell said.
About the author: Annette Syahlani is a journalist for YMCA Youth Press Gallery 2020, and a third year Bachelor of Arts at The University of Melbourne majoring in anthropology. Her writing can be found at http://farragomagazine.com/contributor/annette-syahlani/