|Call for mental health action|
|Tuesday, 03 August 2010 00:00|
Earlier this year when Professor John Mendoza, then head of the federal government’s Mental Health Advisory Council, resigned in protest over the government's failure to make mental health a priority, accusing the former Prime Minister of not taking mental health seriously.
That was followed by representatives from the mental health sector presenting the federal government with a letter demanding better funding for mental health.
Now, the grassroots activist organisation GetUp has launched a campaign to get 125,000 people to sign a petition calling for mental health reform, while the newly formed Parents Families and Carers political party has also made it a major part of their platform and they will field candidates in marginal seats across the nation for the upcoming federal election.
The GetUp petition, supported strongly by Professor Mendoza, states: "I call on the governments of Australia to act urgently and effectively to reform mental health care in Australia so that:
Professor Mendozer said in his resignation letter that every day, 330 Australians with serious mental illnesses are turned away from hospital emergency departments, and 1,200 Australians are refused admission to a public or private psychiatric unit.
“For each of those seven Australians, there are seven families who mourn them, seven groups of friends who ask themselves, 'why?’” Professor Mendoza said. “And every day our political leaders fail to take action, this crisis worsens.”
“$100 million would expand these crucial suicide prevention services and concentrate on suicide hot spots like 'The Gap' in Sydney,” he said.
“For too long, successive Governments have failed to take mental health seriously. It’s now the leading cause of disability for all Australians and the leading killer of those under 44.”
Professor Mendoza had stated that if the former Prime Minister was really serious about his stated commitment to ‘do more on mental health’, a sensible investment into support and preventative measures could start saving lives and alleviating suffering immediately.
In a recent interview, Professor Mendozer told ABC’s PM presenter Mark Colvin that when he took his former role he genuinely believed that the government was going to take a different approach to mental health reform.
“They’d certainly made clear in opposition that they were determined to address the long standing problems in this area,” he said. “They had commented on many aspects of the Howard government’s response in this area as being inadequate and wanting to do a lot better and, in fact, the formation of the Mental Health Advisory Council was specifically in response to, I guess, the lack of progress from the reform policy agenda that had been in place for some time.
“So after two years, however, it was pretty clear we were getting nowhere.”
Professor Mendoza said what was needed, first and foremost, was a national rollout of the youth mental health service Headspace – which currently has less than half the funding that is required.
He also said Australia needs a national psychosis intervention service and investment in child mental health.
“Vast numbers of children in Australia that start to develop learning difficulties, behavioural problems and mental health problems have no access to care at all. And what those problems develop into is far more significant and more complicated later in life,” he said.
Writing on the GetUp campaign site, Professor Mendoza said Australia must also provide more support for the 63,000 homeless Australians suffering from mental illness, and invest in e-health services that can reach hundreds of thousands of sufferers cost effectively.
“We owe it to our children, and their peers, to implement a national suicide prevention service … across Australia, life-saving suicide prevention services are starved for funds.
“The concerted efforts of mental health campaigners, including GetUp members, have been effective in securing small pledges from the government this year – but we need an investment of at least $500 million to start turning this health crisis around. It’s within our grasp. A poll commissioned by GetUp this weekend found that 83% of Australians would be in favour of investing $500 million in mental health immediately.
“The policies are there, the public support is there and millions of Australians are waiting for help – now we need the public political pressure to make it happen.”
Professor Mendoza has asked that people join the campaign by adding their name at: http://www.getup.org.au/campaign/MentalHealth
Already, over 90,000 people have signed the GetUp petition and the organisation hopes that at least another 25,000 Australians will sign.
You can find out more about the Parents Families and Carers party and their mental health reform agenda here: