CEO Update - Life matters for those in urgent need
Life matters for those in urgent need
If we see a car accident we stop. We check to see if people are ok. We call an ambulance if we need to. We call the police if we need to. We offer first aid if we can. We try to help. Because we know what to do, and the exact path to follow to get help.
Conversely, what do we do if we see an individual on the street, distressed, dishevelled, and seemingly suffering from a mental illness? An individual on the fringe of the community in which live. Who do we call for help? Do we stop? The answers to these questions are not easy to find and, often make people uneasy. Especially people who want to help but don’t know how.
I had this kind of experience last week, as I rushed to the ABC Studios in Melbourne to record their Life Matters program.
I encountered a man on the bridge that crosses the Yarra. The young man was perhaps in his early 30s, talking to himself quite loudly and aggressively, and pacing up and down the bridge as morning commuters walked on by. Of course it is wrong to judge and diagnose on the spot, but we all know this man, or woman, because we have come across him/her all too often in our community.
Throughout this election campaign there have been many mental health announcements, but nothing I’ve seen would appear to help the man on the street I saw in Melbourne this week.
They are the men and women who for many reasons sadly become invisible to our systems. But unlike the car crash, these people are too often ignored.
Beyond the obvious personal challenges around the stigma of such encounters, the practical question of ‘how can we help?’ is not so clear. Beyond a warm smile and an earnest greeting, what do we do to help? What services are available? What does this person need at that particular point in time? Who can we call? What path do we follow to get them help?
And that’s the point here: what we’ve seen announced or planned for during this election campaign doesn’t act at all on the urgency needed to support people in similar circumstances.
People who do not need to be taken by ambulance to an Emergency Department. People who should not be taken by police to a watch house. People whose families and carers are likely to be at their wits end and unsupported too. People who need a safe place in the community, perhaps the voice of a peer worker, who need to be gently linked back to other supports, who might just need some time and space to re-group and make their own plans.
This lack of services, programs and supports has been largely invisible in the Election Campaign.
At the moment there is no structure to overcome these circumstance. There is no clear pathway for somebody who wants to help, to follow. There is no outreach to solve the problems on the ground, and despite the many heroic efforts from police, ambulance, community social workers, doctors, nurses, carers and more… there is no clear system, let alone a set of rules to follow, like we have for reporting a car accident, minor or major.
Over the last 20 years or so, our road toll and safety on our roads has been a national focus. And it’s worked in all states and at a national level. From double demerit points on public holiday weekends to slow people down, to national advertising campaigns about seat belts, fatigue, drink driving, texting and more… the multi layered, coordinated state and federal road safety campaign, or a version of it, is what we need for mental health and in turn suicide prevention.
Such a focus might even start to reduce the suicide rate in this country, which as we all know is double the road toll.
But more importantly, such a focus would create a way for all of us to help the distressed neighbour on the street, and help them find place that is safe, respectful and lasting.
We should reflect on what it means that these issues have not been adequately canvassed in our Federal Election, and we should get a new track quickly to ensure that our political leaders do not turn their backs when the Productivity Commission releases its recommendations about real mental health reform.
Recommendations that must address these urgent issues, because their life matters.
Chief Executive Officer
Click below for a video highlight from ABC’s Life Matters
Mental Health Australia’s Election Report Card
At the start of the 2019 Federal Election campaign, Mental Health Australia wrote to leaders of the major parties asking for their commitment to eight key measures as part of our Election Platform. Our Election Report Card provides a summary of the responses as well as list of further general mental health announcements made during the campaign. Click here for the 2019 Election Report Card.
Mental health announcements, final summary!
See below a summary of the many mental health announcements by the major parties so far.
April 13: Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention
“Our $503.1 million Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Plan is the largest suicide prevention strategy in Australia’s history. It will ensure that government activities are coordinated, services are delivered to young Australians at risk and support is available for friends and families.”
Plan focuses on:
- Strengthening the headspace network,
- Indigenous suicide prevention,
- Early childhood and parenting support.
April 16: New headspace for Katoomba
“The Morrison Government will establish a new headspace in Katoomba to provide innovative mental health support for young Australians in the Blue Mountains.”
April 20: Strengthening Australia’s World-Class Health System
“The Morrison Government’s ‘Plan for Strengthening Australia’s World Class Health System’ will guarantee Medicare, deliver record bulk billing, an additional $31 billion for hospitals over the next five year agreement, $40 billion for new medicines and research backed by our $20 billion Medical Research Future Fund.”
The Liberal Health policy: https://www.liberal.org.au/our-plan-strengthening-…
April 23: $2 million for the National LGBTI Health Alliance
“The Morrison Government will provide an additional $2 million to the National LGBTI Health Alliance over two years for the peer support telephone and online support service, QLife.”
April 24: Northern Territory health plan
“Funding for Northern Territory public hospitals will triple from $152 million in 2012-13 to $306 million in 2019-20 and further to $467 million in 2024-25, under a new hospitals agreement. We are investing $4.1 billion in Indigenous health over four years, there is record bulk billing in the Northern Territory and more than 2000 new medicines have been subsidised through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.”
May 1: More support for older Australians
“The Morrison Government will continue to prioritise better support for older Australians by investing in a new targeted research centre, funding a new program to combat loneliness while ensuring the aged care workforce meets growing demand in the future.”
May 4: Record investment into Queensland health services
“The Morrison Government is investing an additional $100 million to support south east Queensland patients with new cancer and mental health services and critical hospital infrastructure.”
May 8: National Action Plan to Improve the Health of Children and Young People
“The Liberal Government launched the first National Action Plan for the Health of Children and Young People 2020-2030 which will improve children and young people’s health by focusing on healthy upbringing, prevention, addressing risky behaviours and childhood mental health.”
- The strategy will:
- Improve health equity across populations
- Empower parents to maximise healthy development
- Tackle mental health and risky behaviours
- Address chronic conditions and preventive health
- Strengthen the health workforce.
April 17: Labor to invest in community mental health in Higgins
Labor announce $4 million investment in new Star Health Mental Health Community Hub in Prahran
April 18: Labor’s health plan for the NT
“A Shorten Labor Government will upgrade mental health facilities, fund the purchase of a new Careflight helicopter for Darwin Hospital, and fund major improvements to remote health services as part of a $92 million Northern Territory health package.”
April 23: Labor to establish headspace centre in Gilmore
Labor candidate for Gilmore, Fiona Philips, announced the plan for a headspace centre in Batemans Bay
April 27: Labor pledges $12 million for youth drug and alcohol treatment
“A Federal Labor investment of $12 million will enable the Ted Noffs Foundation to expand its drug and alcohol treatment services for young people.”
April 29: Labor will invest in specialist care for intellectual disability
“A Shorten Labor Government will improve the health of people with intellectual disability with a $9.5 million investment to tailor health care to their needs.”
May 4: Labor will boost resources for Kids Helpline
“A Shorten Labor Government will provide $6 million to Kids Helpline to ensure that children and young people across Australia can access 24/7 free national counselling and support services.”
May 5: Filling the gaps in our youth mental health system
“A Shorten Labor Government will invest nearly $200 million in headspace Plus – improving youth mental health services and ensuring young Australians don’t fall through the cracks in Australia’s mental health system.”
May 7: Labor will invest in mental health and suicide prevention reform
“A Shorten Labor Government will invest over $1 billion to drive vital mental health and suicide prevention reform.”
Media Release not available online
May 7: Labor will create Australia’s first national plan for eating disorders and body image research
“A Shorten Labor Government will commit $20 million to create Australia’s first National Plan for Eating Disorders and Body Image Research.”
Media Release not available online
The Australian Greens
18 April: Greens launch transformative youth mental health policy
- Make services effective, transparent and accessible
- Improve access to online services
- Support young people to help other young people with peer to peer services through providing 1,000 places for peer to peer workers and opportunities for young people to train as peer workers through our free TAFE initiative.
- Improve services for young people in crisis by providing $250 million over four years in grant funding for community-based assertive outreach programs targeted at children and young people and improve access to face-to-face services by providing $25 million over the next four years for a trial of 50,000 children and young adults to each access 10 group sessions of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.
- Support young people in the workplace by expanding the Individual Placement and Support trial.
- Reduce mental health stigma by investing $10 million in a youth mental health stigma strategy.
23 April: Greens launch plan for universal mental health system
- Make services effective, transparent and accessible.
- Fund prevention and early intervention through $500 million in funding over the next decade for communities to implement assertive outreach programs, providing $25 million for a four year trial of 50,000 children and young people to each access 10 group sessions of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and fund online Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for a total of one million users.
- Support people with severe mental ill health by building a fully funded and adequately staffed NDIS and provide an additional $450 million for community psychosocial services.
- Build mentally healthy workplaces through providing $604 million over the decade for mental health workplace interventions in smaller businesses and $50 million per year for three years for mental health interventions in larger businesses and expanding the existing Individual Placement and Support trial.
- Increase the numbers of peer workers by providing $166 million to fund a two-year national peer workforce trial with 1,000 places.
- Reduce mental health stigma through an anti-stigma campaign involving those with lived experience.
Full policy: https://greens.org.au/sites/default/files/2019-04/…
29 April: Greens call for Newstart and Youth Allowance raise
In response to Anglicare Australia’s Rental Affordability Snapshot, Greens release announcement calling for increase to Newstart and Youth Allowance
Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health
Expert Forum: Intergovernmental Arrangements in Mental Health
On Monday, Mental Health Australia and KPMG convened an expert forum on intergovernmental arrangements in mental health. This was a small meeting of experts with experience in navigating the complexities of federal and state governance and finance arrangements across social sectors. Meeting delegates shared their deep experience and expertise in intergovernmental arrangements through robust and constructive discussion. The Productivity Commissioners attended to hear the discussion first hand and played an active listening role, enhanced by asking well-informed questions driving at key policy and implementation considerations. Mental Health Australia will draw on learnings from this forum to inform a supplementary submission to the Productivity Commission about intergovernmental governance and finance arrangements in mental health. We will be circulating some papers following these discussions for broader consideration.
Down Syndrome Australia releases new mental health resource
Mental Health Australia is pleased to alert Members and stakeholders towards a fantastic new resource from Down Syndrome Australia (DSA) to support the mental health of people with Down syndrome. As part of the resource DSA report that people with intellectual disability, including Down syndrome, are two to three times more likely to experience mental illness than people without disability.
“The reasons behind this are unclear but social barriers, rather than the disability itself, may mean that people with Down syndrome are more likely to experience some of the risk factors for mental illness,” said DSA chief executive Dr Ellen Skladzien.
Find out more at https://www.downsyndrome.org.au/news/new_publicati…
On Monday I be meeting with our friends from FECCA including CEO Mohammad Al-Khafaji.
On Tuesday I will be meeting with Christine Morgan, CEO of the National Mental Health Commission.
On Wednesday I will be talking Digital Mental Health with the Digital Mental Health Advisory Group.
On Thursday I will be heading to Melbourne for a couple of days to attend the Annual Issues and Opportunities Workshop with fellow staff and members of the NMHCCF, the National Register and representatives from the Multicultural mental health team.