Four Corners - Hidden Voices

Typical of many regional centres around Australia, Mackay in Queensland is a place that appears to have it all - tourism, lucrative mines and lush farmlands. But like so many other places, it struggles to properly take care of members of the community who are mentally ill. Now reporter Quentin McDermott asks, why have Australia's Governments deserted those who need their help most?
On 27th December 2005 a young woman, Joanna Scriha, was bashed to death in bushland near the Queensland town of Mackay. The killer was her boyfriend. Both had been diagnosed with a mental illness. Both, at different times, had been discharged from the Mackay Base Hospital psychiatric unit because of pressure to free up the beds.
Joanna's story is not unique. This week reporter Quentin McDermott talks to others who have failed to get ongoing, effective treatment from the local hospital and public health centre. Other agencies and private practitioners also tell how they are critically overworked and under-resourced.
It's now clear that despite the town's growing population and the region's enormous wealth-producing industry, the funding allocations for mental health programs have not kept pace with demand. It's also clear that Mackay is not an isolated example. As Four Corners discovers, this regional centre is a classic case study in Government neglect and reflects the problems that exist in many parts of Australia.
According to mental health experts the biggest problem nationally is the lack of early intervention programs. What they would like to see is a system where a young person with problems can see mental health care professionals so they can be treated before the condition becomes acute. Right now the experts say patients are given intensive treatment only after they are in a crisis situation.
Doctors, nurses and health administrators - along with patients and their families - are asking: who will deliver the funds and resources necessary to bring our mental health services into line with the rest of the Western world?

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