CEO Update from Mental Health Australia: Schizophrenia Awareness and Support

Schizophrenia Awareness and Support

This week is Schizophrenia Awareness Week. A time to raise awareness about schizophrenia, reduce stigma and promote inclusive behaviour. A time to promote help-seeking for those experiencing schizophrenia and their families and carers.

Perhaps most importantly of all, a time to promote hope. Hope that with this awareness raising Australian communities will become more inclusive places for people with schizophrenia. Hope that Australia’s mental health and disability systems can be reformed with people experiencing schizophrenia, their families, and carers to better meet their needs. Because, while we raise awareness and encourage help seeking, we also must acknowledge that for many the full suite of services simply is not there.

Many of you will be aware of the work being done to advocate for funding to address the significant gap in psychosocial support services (outside the NDIS) identified by the Productivity Commission Report into Mental Health. We know psychosocial supports are key services for many people with schizophrenia. The Albanese Government invested $260.2 million (over two years) in the recent Federal Budget to extend current Commonwealth psychosocial supports for people with severe mental illness who are not in the NDIS. While Mental Health Australia welcomes this necessary extension of existing essential services, we know it does not address the larger service gap identified by the Productivity Commission. We know Australian Governments are currently working together to estimate the gap in psychosocial support outside the NDIS and we hope this will result in tangible investment in psychosocial support to meet need.

For people with schizophrenia who receive services through the NDIS, we know that in its first decade of operation the NDIS has been life-changing for many. However, we also know that many people have faced barriers in accessing the Scheme and implementing appropriate NDIS supports. The transition to the NDIS has also created significant challenges for the psychosocial support workforce and service providers both within and outside of the NDIS. It is in this context that we heard about the NDIS Review’s progress from representatives presenting to Mental Health Australia’s recent Member Policy Forum.

This week Mental Health Australia provided a second submission to the NDIS Review, developed in consultation with Mental Health Australia members and members of the National Mental Health Consumer and Carer Forum Psychosocial Disability Working Group. The submission calls for changes to the NDIS rules and the NDIS access assessment approach to clarify eligibility for people with psychosocial disability. The submission outlines what early intervention services could be funded both through and outside the scheme and calls on Australian Governments to fund psychosocial support outside the NDIS to meet need.

The submission also calls for further work to increase affordability of and access to psychiatric and allied health support for all people with psychosocial disability, whether NDIS participants or not. Finally, the submission outlines a range of issues that need to be addressed for the NDIS to better meet the needs of people with psychosocial disability including NDIS pricing, the makeup of NDIS plans, responding to the episodic nature of psychosocial disability and supported decision making with people with psychosocial disability.

Mental Health Australia continues to advocate for people with schizophrenia, their families and carers and influencing government actions so that people experiencing schizophrenia have access to the full suite of services they need to live full and contributing lives in the community.

Harry Lovelock
Acting CEO, Mental Health Australia

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