Speech – Mental health – Federation Chamber
I rise to support the motion moved by the member for Fisher and acknowledge his strong promotion of good mental health. It’s often said that mental health is a collective responsibility—for individuals, for our community and for society in general. We need to look after ourselves and each other, and the government needs to ensure there’s adequate funding for programs that support and improve mental health and care for those who need support.
As noted in the motion, one in five Australians reports having experienced a mental or behavioural condition, with the highest prevalence being amongst those people aged between 18 and 24. What’s also concerning is that research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare suggests that 54 per cent of people suffering from a mental illness do not access treatment. It’s in everyone’s interest to work to improve our nation’s mental health statistics, and it’s certainly everyone’s responsibility.
In the last 50 years, our knowledge of mental health conditions, their causes and how they can be treated has emerged from what can only be described as the dark ages. In this time, we’ve come from a world where only the most complex and serious cases of mental illness were recognised, and they were treated with rudimentary treatment and, usually, institutionalisation. This treatment fed a perception in society that any form of mental illness was a life-long condition that robbed a person of the ability to cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and make a contribution to their community.
Today, we are much better informed and absolutely know this is not the case. We have a much better understanding of the very broad nature of mental health, both in type and severity. We understand how damaging the negative stigma associated with mental illness is and we need to prevent it. We understand that prevention and early intervention are key to improving the mental health of our nation. We know that today in Australia more than a million people are experiencing depression and more than two million people are experiencing anxiety related conditions. We know that one in six women and one in eight men will experience depression in their lifetime. These numbers increase when we talk about anxiety, as one in three women and one in five men are likely to experience anxiety in their lifetime.
A recent Deakin University study estimated that the cost of high-prevalence mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse, stands at $12.8 billion per year in health and social costs.
I’m sad to say that Wide Bay has an over-representation when it comes to both suicide and poor mental health. But I am pleased the government has recognised this and is taking action to deliver the funding and initiatives needed to tackle these issues at the local level. In Wide Bay, the National Suicide Prevention Trial is being delivered by the region’s Primary Health Network, and will focus on Gympie and Maryborough, with a particular focus on men. The PHN is receiving $1 million per year from 2016-17 to 2018-19 for suicide prevention trials. The PHN has been engaging with local communities to better understand current services and to identify opportunities for service integration. Community forums have been held in Gympie and Maryborough; suicide prevention action plans are being developed for the area; and a working group comprising local service providers, community representatives and people with a personal understanding of suicide has been established to inform the trial.
I’m also pleased to confirm that the coalition government will fund a new headspace service in Gympie, which is expected to be operational in July 2018. headspace is an incredibly valuable service which assists young people with mental health issues. The PHN has received $366,000 in 2017-18 to establish Gympie’s headspace, and will receive another $350,000 in 2018-19 and each year thereafter for service delivery. The PHN will commission Gympie’s headspace service through United Synergies, which also runs StandBy—Support After Suicide, a suicide postvention program which helps people bereaved by suicide.
We all need to do everything we can to lower suicide rates in this country and eliminate the stigma associated with mental health.