Focus on mental health support for Hume’s hoarders

June 8, 2017

As Seen on Herald Sun 


"HUME Council is looking at a “holistic” approach to helping hoarders and those living in squalor across the municipality.


The news comes as a leading academic says there could be thousands of such cases in Hume.


Swinburne University of Technology clinical psychologist Dr Maja Nedeljkovic said many people kept their hoarding a secret.


They were afraid to open the door to family, friends and health professionals, and lived in houses that were fire hazards and health risks, she said.


Dr Nedeljkovic, who heads the university’s “compulsive hoarding and acquisition program” that helps sufferers, said it was a common problem affecting about 5 per cent of the population.


Hume Council held a workshop on the subject late last month and Cr Jack Medcraft said he was shocked by photographs taken by the fire brigade and other agencies.


“One owner’s dog had died and had just been left. Now its skeleton is just laying there. And there was a bed with no legs that had been piled with newspapers and other junk and looked like lasagne,” he said.


“Another had no usable shower or toilet and had fleas and vermin so used to human contact they just sat on the table and look at you.”


Cr Medcraft said hoarders had a disease that had to be treated by health professionals, not penalised, and the council needed a mental health services response.


Council’s director of community services Margarita Caddick said the workshop included input from government and non-government agencies to develop “local action plans and improve referral pathways for individuals affected by hoarding and/or living in squalor”.


“The aim of the workshop was to develop a holistic approach across a wide range of service providers, including council, health and mental health services and emergency services,” she said.


Metropolitan Fire Brigade’s Martin Braid said hoarding increased fire risks."



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