Professor Allan Fels, Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, used the launch of the 2013 National Report Card on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention to call for political courage in reforming mental health and providing better outcomes for the 45% of Australians who will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime.
Prof. Fels said: “We speak about Australia as the lucky country, but mental health is a weak point in our society as well as our health system.
“For example, it’s scandalous that only seven per cent of the 340,000 people who have co-existing mental illness and substance use disorders each year are estimated to receive treatment for both problems. These people have their lives cut short by an average of between 20 and 30 years, they are more likely to be in prison or homeless, and they are more likely to take their own lives.
Criminalise Mental Health? Expect Poorer Outcomes
“The Commission is also highly concerned about how we as a society criminalise people who live with a mental health difficulty. People living with mental illness are over-represented in our prisons, in the number of police incidents and in the number of police shootings. We believe that each stage of the justice system needs significant reform.
“In 2012, 38 per cent of all people entering our prison system reported being told they have a mental illness, and 87 per cent of young people in the juvenile justice system in NSW alone were found to have at least one psychological disorder. “Compared to other prison entrants, people with poor mental health have more extensive and early imprisonment histories, poorer school attainment, higher unemployment rates and higher rates of substance abuse. Incarceration and their treatment in prison often makes their mental illness worse and rarely treats their illness appropriately.
“When we look at these issues … we see that there is a cycle of vulnerability that crosses generations, and current mental health systems and supports are not generally designed with the needs of people and families at its core.
Indigenous people are twice a likely to die by suicide than non-Indigenous
“Only 25% of young people and 15% of boys and young men with mental health problems receive treatment of any kind. Meanwhile, 44 Australians, on average take their own lives each week and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are two times more likely to die by suicide than non-Indigenous people. “There is a growing divide between those of us who are empowered to live a contributing life – and those of us who are disempowered by issues like unemployment, homelessness, social exclusion as well as a lack of the right support ”, Prof. Fels said.
A Contributing Life: The 2013 National Report Card on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention shines a light on the lives of people who are the most disadvantaged in society – economically, socially and because of the impacts of their mental illness. It contains personal accounts from people and families who have experienced mental illness through the prism of prison, homelessness, unemployment, discrimination and grief following a suicide.
Repeated calls for Early Intervention Funding
The Report Card highlights the need to increase investment in early intervention across a range of areas and across people’s lives.
Prof. Fels said: “Many of the recommendations we made last year relate to systemic reform that will take time. We need to make a start. This is about us – our family, friends and colleagues – and we are impatient for action on behalf of the millions of people and families we know are tired of struggling on.”
“We still have no public reporting on the number of people who are discharged from hospitals, custodial care, mental health or drug and alcohol related services into homelessness even though this issue has been named as a national commitment since 2008. “We observe a concerning trend of services retreating from their roles and governments retreating from funding commitments to support people in the community. Last year, we called on governments to ensure that mental health funding they publically announce is spent on mental health as promised, but we’ve seen no independent and transparent reporting on this. “Courage will also be needed to avoid tinkering with a disjointed collection of linear services and systems that have long been shown not to produce the outcomes people need. Success will rely on all levels of government, community agencies, and public and private services working together to make people’s lives better”, he said.
However, the Commission stressed that the news is not all bad. Professor Fels cited the public release of the first ever national data on seclusion by states and territories as a highlight of the year and a key step in achieving real reductions in this practice, which is not in line with human rights. The Commission is also pleased that psychosocial disability has been included in the NDIS, and applauded the work that non-government sector, the business sector and first responders such as Police have taken to address issues the Report Card and its broader work has raised.
Source: National Mental Health Commission Website – 27 November 2013 Media Release
Need Help NOW?
If you have read this blog and you’re having suicidal thoughts:
1. Tell someone how you feel. A partner, friend, family member, school counsellor either face to face or on the phone.
2. If you have someone with you, ask them to stay with you until you get help. Being with someone, even over the phone increases your safety.
3. Call or talk to a medical professional and tell them it’s an emergency:
- Call your local hospital and ask to speak to the Mental Health Team
- Go to your GP or local emergency department and wait there until you are seen by a medical professional
- Call 000. The police or ambulance may be able to take you to hospital.
- Call your doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist, counsellor or case worker
- Call a Crisis Helpline
24 Hour Telephone Services:
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Suicide Callback service 1300 659 467
- Kids/Teens Helpline 1800 55 1800
Go to the Lifeline Website
Go to the SANE Website
Go to the R U OK? Website
Kids can get helpful information on the Kids Helpline Website
ReachOut.com is an online support website aimed at Australian young people