Whilst Tuesday’s budget brings about a significant proportion of funds to the mental health sector, the question we raise through BEING – Mental Health Consumers is – are we doing enough to support the rights of people who access public mental health services, and /or need support with their mental health?
Despite the federal government’s announcement of the $2.3billion mental health package in the 2021 budget as being ‘the largest single mental health and suicide prevention plan in budget history’, we support the many who are asking a key question, where is the change in the mental health system to ensure basic human rights are upheld?
The budget brings with it much of the same, without innovation or ground-breaking supports or new programs to support people who need help and assistance through challenging times. Dr Sebastian Rosenberg, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre, states “This amount of funding is very welcome, but it is still a long way short of what is necessary to build the mental health services we need into the 21st century.” In an interview with ABC radio last week, Dr Rosenberg went on to say “Our system was already broken and the increase in demand in services has accentuated that”.
As a systemic advocacy organisation, BEING – Mental Health Consumers welcome some of the key line items but is it enough to make a difference to people’s lives. Some of the positives we see include the $3.1 million commitment to support peer workers to undertake training, and funding to address the impact of suicide and mental health issues on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
Here is a snapshot of some of the key areas of focus:
Workforce and governance:
- $3.1 million to sponsor up to 390 peer workers to undertake vocational training.
- $1 million to reduce the stigma associated with mental health among health practitioners and promote mental health as a preferred career option.
- $15.9 million to support General Practitioners and other medical practitioners to provide primary mental health care by providing specialised training and resources to enhance their capacity to address the mental health concerns of their patients.
Supporting vulnerable Australians:
- $79 million to address the devastating and disproportionate impact of suicide and ill-mental health on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians through key initiatives under a renewed Indigenous-led National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy.
- $16.9 million to fund mental health early intervention supports and preventative measures for migrants and multicultural communities and address the cultural competence of the broader health workforce.
- $487.2 million to deliver critical community-based multidisciplinary, coordinated care for adults experiencing mental ill-health.
- $111.4 million to support the take up of group therapy sessions and participation of families and carers in treatment provided under the Medicare Better Access to Psychiatrists, Psychologists and General Practitioners initiative.
- $34.2 million to support General Practitioners in their role as a key entry point into the mental health system by expanding and implementing the Initial Assessment and Referral (IAR) tool in primary care settings. The tool will also apply in all Commonwealth funded services and, with their agreement, in state and territory services, and will deliver a consistent and culturally appropriate approach to clinical assessment and referral.
- $42.3 million to enable access to parent education and support programs to build parenting strategies and teach parents and carers how to identify and respond to problem behaviours.
- $158.6 million for universal suicide aftercare services to all Australians discharged from hospital and pilot broader referral pathways to anyone who has attempted suicide or experienced suicidal distress that may not have presented to a hospital.
- $22.0 million to provide national suicide postvention services to support those bereaved or impacted by suicide.
- $31.2 million to directly help people experiencing psychological distress, including establishing a national distress intervention trial, implementing national standards for Safe Spaces services.
Prevention and early intervention:
- $11.6 million to commence the transformation of the existing Head to Health gateway into a comprehensive national mental health platform. This will provide Australians with greater choice and access to high quality, free and low-cost digital mental health services and treatment.
- $2.8 million to support the implementation of the National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health Standards to improve the quality of digital mental health service provision and protect service users and their support people.
Coronavirus related mental health supports:
- The Australian Government is investing in ongoing mental health support for Australians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic through a further $7.1 million in funding towards Beyond Blue’s Coronavirus Mental Wellbeing Support Service. This funding is in addition to the Government’s investment of $10 million over 2019–20 and 2020–21, and will ensure the program remains accessible until 31 December 2021, providing continued support while COVID-19 continues to impact Australians.