Psychiatric crisis sparks suicide fears


Mental therapy provider the Henry Street Centre have been forced to close a four-month-long waitlist for new children patients. Picture credit: Lily Bourgeois

Experts are worried that a lack of qualified psychiatrists in WA may lead into an increase in suicide rates across the state.

Head of the National Association of Practicing Psychiatrists Mr Maurice says that the Covid pandemic has exacerbated an existing mental health practitioner shortage.

“We were worried about the suicide increase this would lead to, as when people are financially stressed or loose their job there is a higher risk” Prof Maurice said.

“However, the rate of suicide has not increased, although people might be feeling suicidal they are also being supported by the government with grants” he says.

Government-funded Covid disaster payments have now stopped.

“When people are financially unstable and suffer as they lose their jobs, there is a likelihood they are more prone to suicide,” Prof Maurice said.

During Covid, people have been stressed and depressed and that is what you see when a natural disaster or when pandemic happens, he said.

He questions why there is a lack of psychiatrists in Australia to meet the populations needs.

“Not only for kids, for adults as well. The question is why is there such a high demand? We are not producing enough psychiatrists, so the demand just keeps on increasing,” Prof Maurice says.

With the rise in demand for therapist and psychologists across Australia, Prof Maurice says that he believes it is due to a big move being made over the past 10 years.

Mental therapy provider the Henry Street Centre spokeswoman Allison Nagaz says that they been forced to close a four-month-long waitlist for new children patients.

“A lot of practices have a longer waitlist, ours is relatively short compared to other centres,” Ms Nagaz says.

“You see all these athletes and celebrities coming forward with their mental health struggles, and so did other people as it has been less stigmatised.”

“This is the biggest demand I have ever seen in the 30 years as a psychiatrist, not only me my colleagues as well,” Prof Maurice says.

There are 4000 psychiatrists in Australia. The waitlists are huge and people are asked to wait can be a struggle on the individual, he says.

Professor Maurice says that psychiatrists are doctors first and then mental health specialists, they diagnose the patient and determine the treatment whether it is with drugs or therapy.

Therapy can also prevent suicide, but the waiting time to be seen by someone is nearly as long as being seen by a psychiatrists.