At the Mental Health Australia members policy forum during their latest Parliamentary Advocacy Day there was a great deal of consensus regarding the value of a statement from the sector to capture and convey the urgent need for reform. Please see its draft from Frank Quinlan.
The mental health sector is united and calling for real reform to improve the mental wealth of our nation.
As the cost of mental illness is increasing worldwide, in Australia mental health’s share of the health budget is decreasing.
Worse, spending on community based mental health treatments and services is actually declining. This is despite the National Mental Health Commission calling for more investment at the community level, where services make a real difference to the lives of people living with mental illness and their families.
Mental illness places a huge burden on individuals, families, communities and the broader economy. Too many Australians are being left without services, too many people are caring for loved ones without support, and suicide is at a 10 year high. It’s time for real reform and new investments in what works.
Returns on investment can be secured with real accountability, including targets the community can embrace.
The Australian Government has already committed to ‘once in a generational reform’ for mental health and is likely to receive support for further, lasting reform from an equally committed opposition, crossbench and Senate. By showing national leadership and promoting whole of government action, the Australian Government can help build a world class mental health system.
The following priority actions would be a strong first step for the Australian Government:
- Support people in the community by securing funding for psychosocial support programs based on the success of programs like Partners in Recovery, Personal Helpers and Mentors, Mental Health Nurse Incentive Program, Mental Health Respite: Carer Support and other existing programs.
- Adopt targets and indicators to bring accountability today, and drive the right investments for the future. Strengthen the National Mental Health Commission by tasking it with independent monitoring of outcomes and expenditure.
- Publish and make annual reports on a 10 year plan for expanding investment, and scale up our efforts at prevention and early intervention so every Australian has access to age appropriate and culturally safe community based support services, evidence based clinical services and online interventions.
Mental health reform is a long journey, and we have only taken the first step. It’s time for real investment in Australia’s mental wealth.
Chief Executive Officer, Mental Health Australia