Funds push ‘to help hoarders’

FANTASTIC: Cr Kylie Fisher.

GEELONG’S council will help community organisations seek funds to work with hoarders after their behaviour becomes recognised as a mental illness this year, according to a councillor.
An internationally-recognised American psychiatry handbook will in its May edition identify hoarding as a mental health disorder independent from obsessive-compulsive disorder.
American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders identifies hoarding as “the acquisition of and failure to discard a large number of possessions that seem to be … of limited value”, cluttering living spaces and causing distress.
Recent research has linked the condition with public health issues and fire danger.
Geelong Hoarding Network chair Cr Kylie Fisher said the new classification would help service providers continue to improve their work with hoarders in the region.
“Hoarding’s always been there but previously no one was identified in working in that space. Now we have networks getting together to support people and families and we are developing an information resource guide on how people can contact support services.”
Cr Fisher said a hoarding forum next week would address sufferers and service providers on issues and tactics to deal with the condition.
Key presenters would include a psychologist, a hoarding consultant, a metropolitan fire brigade member and a representative from Geelong community support organisation Bethany.
Bethany’s Tracie McPherson, who will present local case studies at Monday’s forum, said Geelong service providers were collaborating with “limited resources”.
“But we were able to put money into funding a skip. What worked was our turning up all the time and helping them plan to fill the skip.”
Ms McPherson said many hoarders were older than 40 and accumulated items including books, stuffed toys, towels, bed linen, lamps, magazines and newspapers.
“Many people might have experienced long-term homelessness or mental health issues. They surround themselves with things to comfort them. Each case is very individual.”
Ms McPherson said a “harm minimisation” approach for hoarders dealt with general health and safety issues including keeping a home’s exits clear in case of an emergency.
Clients benefited from regular contact with support workers and receiving storage boxes, all requiring funding, she said.