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The Governor-General visits South Coast Private on World Mental Health Day; shines a light on PTSD treatment

The Governor-General, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley has visited the Illawarra’s largest private hospital, South Coast Private Hospital on World Mental Health Day.

The Governor-General and Mrs Linda Hurley joined dignitaries, current and ex-serving defence personnel, South Coast Private Hospital and Healthe Care management on a tour of the hospital, while discussing evidence-based and innovative treatment for people living with mental illness.

South Coast Private CEO, Kim Capp, says the hospital has a proud history of supporting the Illawarra and greater New South Wales regions, with private mental health treatment for PTSD, trauma, depression, anxiety, substance withdrawal and recovery from addiction.

“More specifically, our private mental health services for current and ex-serving Australian Defence Force personnel and first responders includes inpatient treatment, day therapy programs and outpatient consultations to learn the skills to better manage the symptoms of living with PTSD and trauma.”

This includes a purpose-built, ward for ADF personnel, police, ambulance and first responders on level four; where shared experience for patients sustaining injury while serving their community and country supports recovery.

According to Kim, there is overwhelming demand for private mental health services for this patient cohort.

Statistics reveal 2002-2015 suicide rates were 14 per cent higher among ex-serving men than all Australian men (age adjusted). Further, an estimated 8.3 per cent of ADF members have experienced PTSD in the last 12 months; significantly higher than in the Australian community (5.2 per cent).

“We are delighted to showcase South Coast Private with the Governor-General and Mrs Hurley’s visit today. Mental Health Month, and World Mental Health Day are critical community events on the global stage, to destigmatise mental illness while raising awareness about available treatment. PTSD is a treatable condition, and our patients can ultimately go on to live symptom free,” said Kim.

“World Mental Health Day is an opportunity to focus our attention and have a positive discussion about mental health. But, as the work of the South Coast Private and One Door Illawarra shows, it isn’t just about the day – this is an important issue that all Australians should be concerned about each and every day,” the Governor-General said.

CEO of Healthe Care Australia’s Specialty Hospitals and Services, Julia Strickland-Bellamy adds, “as one of the nation’s private mental health providers with near 800 beds, today is a significant event for mental health. Hosting the Governor-General and Mrs Hurley today is a positive step forward in raising mental health awareness in the Illawarra, and supports the intensive schedule of local community events at each of our specialty mental health facilities across Australia, throughout mental health month.”

Kim says that just the thought of professional help can be a challenge for people living with PTSD, so South Coast Private’s program provides a two-phased approach to treatment.

“As a first step, patients benefit from group-based therapy in a safe and supportive environment to prepare for more intensive and highly effective exposure-based therapies including trauma focused cognitive behaviour therapy (TF-CBT), cognitive processing therapy and eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing therapy (EMDR),” said Kim.

Since 2014, South Coast Private has supported defence, first responders and civilians with its three-week inpatient PTSD program to understand PTSD, while learning the skills to better manage symptoms and prevent relapse. On average, 60 per cent of South Coast Private patients completing inpatient therapy progress to necessary, follow up trauma-focused and exposure therapy through individual sessions, for up to two months with a focus on safety, intimacy, control, trust and self-esteem.

“Patients can initially be paralysed with fear, despondence and stress. For our clinicians, it is very rewarding to deliver a treatment with a profound impact on not only the patient’s life, but that of their family also,” said Kim.

This year, South Coast Private extended its PTSD and trauma program offering, with its psychological injuries day program to for people exposed to workplace injury, bullying and harassment.

South Coast Private continues to partner researchers from the University of Technology and Wollongong University to examine program efficacy and innovative approaches to treatment.

Pictured above: Karen Guyer, Peter Kahn (Healthe Care Australia Executive), Dr Al Griskaitis, Merrylord Harb-Azar, His Excellency Governor-General the Honourable David Hurley, Mrs Linda Hurley, Kim Capp (CEO South Coast Private Hospital), Glen Barrington, Christopher Mahoney.