South Australian health authorities are bracing for a rise in mental health presentations over the Easter and Anzac Day holiday period by opening a temporary mental health ward at an Adelaide hospital.
- Public holidays can lead to an increase in stress, health authorities say
- Extra capacity has been made available at Glenside Hospital
- A support service has expressed doubts about the strategy
Five extra acute mental health beds have opened for an 11-day period at Glenside Hospital, with SA Health expecting an increase in patients across the system.
Health Minister Stephen Wade said the Easter period is traditionally a busy time, but that had been compounded this year by more staff taking holidays.
“At Christmas and at Easter people have expectations of spending time with family and friends,” Mr Wade said.
“Those expectations are not always met and that often does lead to stress.
“In relation to particular subgroups such as veterans … [Anzac Day] often brings back memories that are often hard to cope with.”
Paul Creedon, the chief executive of support service Skylight Mental Health, said public holidays have traditionally been associated with times of peak stress.
He said many people “steel” themselves throughout the holiday and need support afterwards, but he expressed doubts about the strategy of temporarily boosting beds.
“My view, and the view I think of many in the mental health sector, is that beds are not the solution,” Mr Creedon said.
“It’s actually about better community services so that people don’t get so unwell that they need beds.”
New unit on track for mid-year opening
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Skylight operates an after-hours phone support service in Adelaide, in which people can receive referral to specialist services from people who have experienced mental health difficulties.
“They kind of get the sorts of things that people might be going through, and then they will usually do some follow-up services over the next few days or weeks just to check that people are okay,” he said.
“We don’t tend to shut our services down during holiday periods.”
The five beds being temporarily opened at Glenside are in the site’s former psychiatric intensive care unit.
Those patients were transferred to the Royal Adelaide Hospital when the hospital’s own unit was opened, and the Government has been planning to use the Glenside ward as forensic mental health services.
Mr Wade said that was now expected to open mid-year.
“There is minor capital works and recruitment planned to make it ready for use as an ongoing mental health unit,” he said.