Mental health system in disarray

Australia’s mental health system is in need of treatment.

Mental health system in disarray

A leaked report into the state of the mental health system, commissioned by the Federal Government, has shown that the current system is ‘poorly planned’ and a ‘massive drain on people’s wellbeing’.

The report recommends diverting more than $1 billion from acute hospital care towards more community-based mental health services. It also found that there are major deficiencies in the response to mentally ill people who seek help, and it prompts a ‘radical rethink’ of the lack of initial and ongoing assistance for those with mental health issues.

The National Mental Health Commission (NMHC) found that whilst there may be substantial funds available for the mental health system, they are not distributed efficiently or effectively, and recommended shifting funds away from hospital-based care to community-based care, in an attempt to tackle the problems surrounding a notable lack of support for patients discharged from inpatient services after attempting suicide.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15–44. The suicide rate in Australia amounts to seven deaths per day – and for every recorded death it is estimated that around 30 people will attempt suicide. That’s around 200 attempts per day – or one attempt every 10 minutes. More people die by their own hand, than by road accidents and skin cancer. In 2012, the suicide rate was double that of the road toll, at 2,535 deaths.

Whilst in Opposition, the Coalition called for a review of the country’s mental health system, and went on to initiate the NMHC review when it came into power in 2013. The report was delivered to the government in November last year, but is yet to be officially made public.

“In 2010 and 2011 Tony Abbott made mental health matter,” says former government mental health advisor Professor Mendoza. “Now was that merely political opportunism or was the Prime Minister genuine in terms of a commitment to mental health reform? I don't know the answer to that but the longer this report is not released, the more it looks like opportunism.”

Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley says that the government needs to finalise its response to the commission’s findings prior to the report’s official release.

“I can confirm the Government is committed to working with mental health experts and other levels of government over the next 12 months to deliver better outcomes for the sector and Australians long-term,” said Ley. “Any recommendations will need to continue to be scrutinised in consultation with the mental health sector and other levels of government.

Read the Report of the National Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services Summary.

If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health difficulties, please visit or call 13 11 14.

Opinion: A system in need of attention

Mental health issues are often covered up or left unspoken – both by sufferers and the community at large – and yet these issues are a major cause of one of the country’s leading killers. It is an ongoing crisis that really needs to be addressed, and quickly.

Suicide is the leading cause of death of Australians aged 15-44. That statistic alone tells us that the mental health system we have in place is not working – so the sooner the government releases its own recommendations for tackling this major community health crisis, the better.

It is understandable, however, that the government needs to review all the findings of the commission in order to create constructive solutions to this problem. Combatting mental health issues requires much tact and forethought on an individual level, so tackling it across the board requires even more analysis in order to be effective. I have no problem with the government pondering this issue as much as it needs to, so long as there is some sort of worthwhile outcome.

But the time for action is becoming more urgent with each passing day. Just ask those living with depression, anxiety, addiction and other mental disorders, as well as the families and loved ones of those who contemplate their demise by their own hand each day.

What do you think? Have you or someone you know been affected by mental health issues? Were you satisfied with the treatment and support received? What sort of services do you think could be implemented in order to improve the mental health system?


    To make a comment, please register or login
    16th Apr 2015
    A very good topic. Besides genetical conditions , people are affected with mental issues for many other reasons: abuse of alcohol and drugs as well as not being able to cope with dramatic circumstances, losses, death, isolation , crisis and more. Very important is to create awareness and, break the tabu attached to meantl illnesses of all sort = Education. ON the other hand, suitable organizations are available but, for those who can pay a lot - well, many treatment choices. No idea how our suicide statistics compared to other first world countries : something worth to investigate (and will do) and, the root of the problem has to be tackled. Medication not always help but, imagine doctors do whatever they can to improve people's lives. Suicide affects people of all ages and backgrounds: I have heard that some elderly people seem to opt for jumping to the sea when cruising and I am not joking. Would like to hear on what others got to say in this regard. Thanks
    16th Apr 2015
    Another report. Is it a good one or one prepared by intellectuals? There must be time for the Government to review it and assess as to whether it is
    {a} Well researched and documented.
    {b} Were the people who are affected consulted and listened to? This means patients - families - workers and professionals.
    {c} Is it feasable and within the probable available funding.
    {d} Who will operate the system and how will they be funded.
    {e} Is it an improvement on the current system ?
    These are only some of the questions that need to be asked and assessed before the Government can call for community comment and involvement.
    Mr Shorten should understand these needs but he just wants to make a political football out of something that is too important to go at half cocked.
    Again let those in Government govern as the opposition will expect to do if they win an election. No politics please just good honest will to assist those who have a need.
    Tom Tank
    16th Apr 2015
    The sad fact is that there are not many votes in caring for people with mental health issues. It is an indictment on Australia that we do not care for those people who desperately need help.
    Our prisons have a large proportion of mentally ill people in them which is disastrous for them but also incredible expensive for the community.
    There has to be a better way.
    Releasing into the community is not an answer as quite a number actually need protection for themselves so quality accommodation with proper care is required. The old asylum system was too underfunded and was used simply to get them our of sight and out of mind.
    There are huge numbers who simply need adequate assistance, with on-call support, to be able to live in the community and lead a productive life.
    Forget the politics and prove that we can help and support those in need.
    16th Apr 2015
    Having spent time as a patient in 2 institutions back in the 60's I am quite glad they do not have the same system today. The amount of drugs used was unbelievable and the really bad cases were just put with everyone else in a dormitory like room, and since some people were somewhat violent it was a terrifying experience. for a person with depression it did not help at all.
    16th Apr 2015
    Increase the Tax on Stress and Anxiety Relieving Ciggy's again ! :-( Its working wonders around here !! I'm just installing Extra Bars on my windows !! :-(
    Polly Esther
    16th Apr 2015
    and which prison are you in again? ( the extra bars ) omg. LOL
    No I do know what you mean:-)
    16th Apr 2015
    The break and enters are UP since the last Increase ! I think the Poor Buggers are Desperate and going Bonkers !! :-( You don't have to be in Prison to be in Prison now !! Thanks Greedy Guv !! :-( They cant think past their Empty Coffers !! Hit the Poor ! Rich Buggers don't care !! BYE !!
    16th Apr 2015
    I have lived long enough and through times of varying difficulty to feel that so much of what is now described as mental illness, is a modern phenomenon. Is this a sign of deteriorating mental fortitude or are we becoming too precious?
    Certainly, there have always been suicides and there have been sundry nutters whom society labelled as such. This, mind you, was in an era when we recognised that nature threw up some "bad buggers" and it was not thought necessary to investigate their upbringing as an excuse for anti-social tendencies.
    But the troubles that we had were borne more or less stoically and we just got on with life. I have no reason to believe that, as a species, we are inherently less tough or resourceful but these natural qualities are subsumed by the social engineers and bleeding hearts.
    To the extent that I am on the right track with this thinking, then perhaps research would be better directed at the causes of depression, PTSD etc. In other words, seek to treat the disease rather than the symptoms.
    Tom Tank
    16th Apr 2015
    Really this is a load of ignorant rubbish Paddles.
    There are people who are really ill but our response is totally inadequate. Yes do the research to identify possible causes but don't throw the current crop of people in need to the lions. They need help now and given the current reduction in funding for research your solution might be an awful long way off.
    PTSD has been around since Adam was a boy but only now is something being done but even that is not enough.
    16th Apr 2015
    Totally agree..
    Let's spend the money to resolve the cause for the mental problems.
    However, doing that would NOT feed BigPharma but take away the lively hood of such LEECHES!
    And yes, there are SOME cases (a small percentage) who are NOT STRESS INDUCED by how the world currently is!
    They - indeed - deserve special treatment as resolving finance & career issues etc. would not resolve the issues for them.
    17th Apr 2015
    Really ppls i think you have not thought clearly with this issue.
    Dysfunctionality starts in the home, if youngsters are not taught about things in life there, things will go wrong, very wrong very quickly and leave them Mentally distraught. Then if they are hounded, and then get drugged up, things will only get worse. and ppl Lose the plot and know not what to do. I believe this does not Warrant to be Drugged UP more by those dopey So called Mental Specialists.
    GET a Grip. We seem to be So much worse these days, than ever before.
    but Just throwing money into that system i don't think will help at all. And many of them now doing drugs and such in one way or another, doesn't help our economy, and they will never be able to work properly, cause their brain not functioning properly. They have not been educated properly they are confused. Then you get the Rotters that Stress these types on the Side LIke some family members, that for their own selfish reasons, beleive they need to be drugged up to the hilts, cause they are a danger. Its a crazy mixed up world now. Certainly i can't see it getting better unless this type of problem is confronted in a different manner. Depression will always be there. We all suffer it, at some time or another! We could all go down that path, but many of us Use our brains and work our way out of the problems that confront us. Many can't do that, they don't know how, they have not been taught how too!!!
    16th Apr 2015
    Over 20 years ago when SA government closed a number of public psychiatric hospitals in favour of placing mental health patients in the community (termed "deinstitutionalisation"), it was considered a good move. It would have been a good move but for the fact that there was insufficient funding for suitable housing and mental health nurses to follow up on the well-being of patients and ensure they were taking their medication. Nothing seems to have changed - not enough money to care for people with misunderstood and hidden disabilities such as mental illness.
    16th Apr 2015
    This is exactly what has happened in NSW with the Disability Services however it would seem that the powers that be have provided funding for proper care and assistance to live within the community. Most people with a general disability, such as Downs Syndrome, love each others company and are very much at home in this environment but they also enjoy mixing in the wider community. I think that many of the people concerned in this program are very happy with the result. I worked with them and enjoyed their company and friendship. I also know that they very quickly grow to know who is genuine and who is not. They quickly disassociate with those who are not. Let us hope that the same success applies for any program introduced under the Mental Health program that may be introduced.
    19th Apr 2015
    There isn't enough specialised Mental Health Beds either. I know a lass who works in the Emergency Dept. of a Public Hospital in Adelaide. A few weeks ago a Mental Health patient was cared for in the Emergency Dept for at least 60 hours waiting for a bed in the Mental Health Ward. In an Govt Mental Health Clinic/Hospital a patient saw a Phyciatrist once in the fortnight she was there, no counselling at all, and medication - a temporary "bandaid" treatment. The only staff she saw were in Agency Uniforms. There was no organised activities at all as part of their therapy. A lot of them just sat around and talked - when they weren't to drugged - and ate. There was plenty of food available day and night apart from regular meals.
    17th Apr 2015
    All Western 'mental healthcare' systems are in highly organised (and possibly pre-planned) complete disarray where the root cause of these problems are being overlooked. The health practitioners are dishing out excessive (up to 4x the maximum adult dose) amounts of "murderous" mind altering drugs, without any tolerance testing. This is much to the delight of big pharmaceutical companies plus their profit takers, and most of these destructive drugs should have been banned years ago. The GermanWings pilot and nearly all mass murderers were on these mind altering drugs that sends them both homicidal and suicidal. Go to America's leading researcher then search for "Germanwings jetliner catastrophe" and also read the member's comments....
    17th Apr 2015
    Gone to the Dogs ! :-(
    17th Apr 2015
    I think you are Very right indeed Pete, and the only ones doing a happy dance is the Drug companies. What do they CARE, they are getting the money lol. ah Sorry yeh not funny really, but True.
    Smacks Particolor, GET back in ya box........Really NOt a funny issue, if you have never seen the outcomes, after they fill em up on them drugs, and they actually force drugs onto ppl. Which i feel is disgusting thing to do???
    17th Apr 2015
    It was the Doctors I was Yapping about !! :-(
    17th Apr 2015
    Here in South Australia the Labor mobs have closed down almost all of what was our main Mental Health facility--Glenside Hopsital--for a movie studio (?), housing & shops etc! Idiots! The lame "reason" for doing this was to "integrate back into society" these poor, often mentally disturbed patients, most of whom were on high doses of medication. The "idea" was to better allow them to be back into the outside world, mixing with other people etc. Great idea, but, who regulates their medication, who tends to these unfortunates who had been getting "attention" & care etc from trained medical persons etc. This does not happen now! In my opinion (at least here in SA), our government sold off the huge Glenside complex simply to sell the land to bloody developers! We did not need a new film studio, there are still many large tracts of usable land around the metro area for housing, we do not really need more shops etc. But no, "they" were intent on selling this very valuable, well established Mental Hospital facility--widely used & known, & very good at coping with the onerous task of housing, treating & protecting all the persons who were suffering from one or more mental conditions! It seems our government(s) are hell bent on trying to get Mental Hospital inmates "back into society", probably so "they" can then "wash their hands" on this whole looking after ill people system we have had for over 100 years!
    17th Apr 2015
    Never Mind there is still a very well Attended Mental Institution in Adelaide !! Parliament House ! :-)
    17th Apr 2015
    This topicshould not be politicised. A close friend has serious mental health and it was only because I knew him that I even botrhered thinking about the topicf. Like so many diseases this is a hidden one, that may not bee picked up by an untrained eye. Be VERY CARFULL to start placing blame on ANYONE. Most of the cases have history stemming back generations when in those days the just locked them up and threw the key away. At least now we have become more aware- but it must be more open, and is the responsibility of the whole lot of us not politicians or welfare workers. Think twice before you burst out abuse at someone- That abuse may be straw that breaks the confidence that leads to breakdowns. I am humbled by the fact that a few people in the community actually care without being glorified for their efforts.
    18th Apr 2015
    Our mental health system has been in disarray FOREVER.
    Of course the mentally ill are usually overlooked or at the bottom of the list when funding and support is needed. They often don't have the physical and mental resources to stand up and campaign or deal with the bureaucracy that dictates where public funds will be spent.
    Of course there always a myriad of needy causes and WHO ultimately decides where the money will go. The costs of mental illness are not just the obvious ones - everyone needs to see the big picture - all of the impacts on individuals, families, medical and legal systems, long-term and generational. Of course this issue is paramount for everyone in Australian society now and in the future, but who will take the time and have the intellect and energy to pursue this matter indefinitly. Of course mental problems will only increase with relationship breakdowns, drugs and isolation becoming epidemical in our society.
    Its time for everyone to reach out and put in effort - particularly our political leaders - because eventually it will effect us all to some degree. How many extended families dont have someone with a form of mental illness. A VERY BIG PROBLEM TO OVERCOME.
    19th Apr 2015
    With all due respect Paddles it is exactly the kind of comment you have proferred which finds those suffereing real mental health issues stigmatised, isolated and untreated. The reality is that depression isnt' a 20th Century illness of the western first world, it's a problem that has been sufferred since time immemorial. The problem with true depression is that people don't run around telling others they are those that are unaware of what to look for are clueless and will often label the behaviour they see as something other than what it is. Make no mistake, most people are vulnerable to depression, because as you've fairly stated, we all have difficulties in life that we will face. However, we aren't all the same...our personalities, moods, hormones, diet, sleep or lack of, social isolation, how our bodies work, pain, and sadly, yes, our past experiences and childhood can and do have an impact on how we cope at times. You aren't the first and won't be the last to suggest that those in the past 'just got on with it'. Unfortunately, I've heard that catch cry all too often from people who clearly did not 'just get on with it'! I really, truly don't mean to be rude...but what an arrogant statement! When was the last time that someone told a cancer patient to get out of their sick bed and 'get on with it.' Or someone with a broken leg....'just get over it'. It seems that because mental pain can't be seen by the eye (though it often clearly visible to anyone who dares look), that it isn't real....after all, it's only in the head! Whilst I appreciate why you see things the way you do....I suspect that it's because you haven't personally suffered depression or not to the extent that it has altered your life... it's unfortunate that you cannot see that for those that really suffer it can be just as painful as any affliction of the body....if not more so. There are those who use their 'diagnosis' as a badge of honour, allowing themselves permission to wallow, medicate without helping themselves and lament for years (I truly question whether that is depression though or some other mental health issue!) ....but they are the voices you's the silent majority who truly suffer in silence and sadly they are the ones who need the help that is being spoke of.
    19th Apr 2015
    A Message to General Ize !!
    19th Apr 2015

    I appreciate and respect your measured response to my earlier contribution. Much of what you say defies my eloquence in seeking a rebuttal but, if I may make a few point-by-point observations on your comments then I would contest the following.

    Your comment that depression is not a phenomenon of the modern era is beyond doubt BUT I would suggest that the incidence and severity of such episodes is very much part of the modern era. I (and perhaps you) grew up in a much simpler, slower paced time and, although we had our problems, they were of a simpler nature and more easily addressed than today's. I will also continue to believe that the self-sufficiency that was part of our make-up then, better fitted us to deal with life's vicissitudes. I also believe that the softening of one's resistance to outward pressures is exacerbated by public opinion, largely driven by the many "bleeding heart" organisations that proliferate now.

    Your point is well made about the "visibility" of physical illness vs mental disorders. You have skirted around the central issue of declaration by the sufferer of their problem. Although it is deemed by many to be inadequate, there is help available to those who "put their hand up" and declare that they are in need of treatment. Unfortunately, the vast majority of such people are ambulatory and are therefore treated on an outpatient or clinic basis. How often does it feature in court proceedings that an offender had stopped taking his/her prescribed medication?
    It is really a "Catch 22" type situation when those who need help either don't call for it or ignore the treatment protocols that could help them. Short of long term institutionalisation, there is little more that can be done so I guess that they will always be with us.

    Whilst I don't consider myself to be "depressive", there have been two occasions in my life when the gun was loaded and cocked but the rational thought of the effects on my family, stopped my pulling the trigger. Whether or not I am stronger for pulling back from the breach is for others to judge but, yes, I have known despair up close and personal.

    Your concluding remarks are as confusing and generalised as the topic we are on. Would that I could shine a light on the problem and develop a "Eureka" moment but, as that is beyond me, I will close on that note.
    20th Apr 2015
    Here we go again! This system has been in disarray for the last 25 years..or more. I have seen both sides of fence in working with people in a professional capacity and also in having been an inpatient in a psychiatric hospital. My first contact with the mental health system was almost 25 years ago and I dont know if a lot has changed. I think that is probably like a lot of areas..there is more demand than supply. Our population is growing. There is far more awareness of mental illness now than ever before(which is probably a good thing) and therefore far more referrals. There are also other factors such as increasing methampentamine usage which is also contributing to the development of psychiatric disorders. I am not personally aware if funding is increasing in this area or not but I do not believe that system is really coping. To say that funding alone is going to fix the problem is certainly short sighted. It is a multi-dimensional issue that must be addressed from a variety of perspectives. Maybe we are not raising resilient children? Maybe we are actually becoming more demanding as a society? Either people do not have the skills or abilities to deal with the harsh realities of life or they are being confronted with unrealistic expectations? As a proportion of the population is the suicide rate actually any worse now than 100 years ago? It was pretty bad during the great depression when people new almost nothing about mental illness! Now we have all this education and awareness but is it actually saving lives? I would also say that there is over reliance upon medication to 'fix' your problem when the medication was never designed to do that in the first place. An anti depressant cant solve your relationship issues or get you a job. We need to look at the root cause of what is contributing to so many people being anxious or depressed in the first place. Is our education system preparing children adequately? So therefore where do you direct the funding..housing, education, There are a lot of very intelligent people working on these issues but I dont know if we are actually getting on top of this.
    20th Apr 2015
    Why are they Importing "Mental Illness ?"
    Nan Norma
    21st Apr 2015
    Money does seem to have a lot to do with treatment. A friend had a mental breakdown and was first treated in a public hospital. She hated the place. Then it was realized she was entitled to treatment through workcover in a private mental hospital. She said couldn't believe the difference. Much better treatment, and one importent thing, the patience were treated with much more respect.

    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles

    You May Like