Lee Hancock calls for more funding, better access to mental health services

Get your bearings: Port Macquarie's Lee Hancock wants more conversation about mental health and is calling on governments to better fund services. Photo: Peter Daniels
Get your bearings: Port Macquarie's Lee Hancock wants more conversation about mental health and is calling on governments to better fund services. Photo: Peter Daniels

When Port Macquarie's Lee Hancock packed a bag and presented himself at 3am to Port Macquarie Base Hospital, it was a cry for help.

The 29-year-old, in his words, was experiencing a mental health episode. He was reaching out.

While his assessment was done in an orderly time frame, Mr Hancock said he was surprised to find himself ‘walking back home within an hour’.

He says the experience highlighted to him the gulf in treatment between people suffering a physical injury and those with mental health issues. 

Mr Hancock said he could not fault the professionalism of the staff. His concerns were based on the need for better funded, and better access to, mental health services.

"I'd had several dealings with the hospital over the years. My two children were born there," he said.

"I was treated there after getting knocked off my bike and the treatment available for those physical injuries was really good.

"But, when it came to me presenting at the hospital with my mental health concerns, the story was quite different. It is a different experience.

"The employees at the coalface of mental health are doing the very best they can, but they need more support.

The employees at the coalface of mental health are doing the very best they can, but they need more support.

Lee Hancock

"When I needed mental health services it was just no there. 

"As a taxpayer, I'd like to see more funding put toward mental health facilities and to give more support to people at the coalface.

"We live in a country where we can quite easily access assistance for physical treatment; we are probably leading the world. But if we need mental health support, it just isn't available."

So incensed by the gulf between physical and mental health services, Mr Hancock decided to make a video - an open letter, as he called it - to highlight his experience.

That video has been viewed several thousand times and shared almost 50 times.

While he has been startled by the acceptance of his video and post, he has also been inspired to take the matter up with politicians and health authorities.

"I thought the video might be shared a few times, but it has really surprised me how many people have responded. What I have heard is the shared stories of other people who have had similar experiences to me.

"Sharing the video helped me and I am amazed what other people have also said; the burden they carry.

"Some of the comments showed that people lack the confidence to talk up while others said they were fearful and just scared what people might say and think (about them).”

The school teacher said he had also tagged NSW Health into the video but was yet to receive any feedback.

Mr Hancock threw down the challenge to government representatives and said he was willing to 'go and talk with whomever will listen' about his experience and his concerns.

"The lesson for me is that we can't be afraid to speak up."

Mr Hancock, who later received treatment at a Taree health clinic that was funded by his parents, says we need to have more open, honest and authentic discussion to help others.

"I found talking really helped me. I suppose you need to not really care what people think or say about you," he said.

"When you start talking honestly it is amazing how people respond to you when there is a bit of honesty and vulnerability in the conversation.”

Mr Hancock acknowledged the support of his family, and particularly his wife Rhianna, but realised that not everyone was in the same position.

"Anyone with a mental health issue needs to address the issue with their GP and talk openly and honestly with them," he added.

He is also getting together with others to form, in his words, A Bearing Brotherhood, for people who share a love of two-wheeled adventures.

Mr Hancock also noted more funding was announced for the mental health sector in the recent Federal Budget.

If you or someone you know needs crisis support phone Lifeline on 13 11 14, for local mental health services in the community phone the NSW Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511.

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