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.
If you or someone you know is experiencing mental health difficulties, please visit www.Lifeline.org.au or call 13 11 14.
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?