Minister focuses on mental health
The Federal Government has made commitments to addressing mental health, promising to work with the States on an integrated system, launching a national children’s mental health strategy, funding more mental health centres, and announcing a nationwide survey to reveal insights into Australians’ wellbeing.
Health Minister Greg Hunt made the annoucements while addressing the National Press Club in Canberra and repeated Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s goal of a zero suicide rate for the nation.
“It’s your story, and it’s my story, and it’s my mother’s story, who had her battle with bi-polar,” Mr Hunt said when turning his address to the topic of mental health.
“But it’s a story that every Australian is touched by at some stage… and so we have a national tragedy.”
A three-year inter-generational national survey will involve 60,000 Australians being quizzed on their physical and mental health to provide what the Minister described as “a degree of depth and knowledge never before present in our understanding of mental health challenges and conditions”.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics will conduct the survey at a cost of about $90 million.
Suicide prevention will get an $8 million funding boost under the next round of the Million Minds Mental Health Research Mission. It will focus on suicide prevention.
“There is only one target that we consider desirable and this is to head towards zero for suicides in Australia,” Mr Hunt said.
"By setting that objective, it says something in itself – that we don’t consider this to be acceptable; we don’t consider it to be something that the nation must tolerate; we do consider it to be something that we can address and achieve with the right support.”
More adult mental health centres are to be built. But to address the problem early, the Government will develop and implement a National Children’s Mental Health Strategy to be led by Professor Christel Middeldorp and Professor Frank Oberklaid.
The Minister urged State and Territory Governments to work with the Commonwealth on addressing mental health.
“We would like to work over the next two years to establish a new partnership with the States for an integrated mental health system from the alpha to the omega – from prevention to recovery – and with understood and agreed responsibilities, ” he said.
“It starts with prevention, which is a shared responsibility but a Commonwealth lead. We then move to early diagnosis and treatment where the GPs take the lead and the Commonwealth takes responsibility. We move then to the mild-to-moderate treatment phase. This is a shared responsibility but a Commonwealth lead.
“Then we move to the challenge of acute treatment in our hospitals – this is a State responsibility. Saying to my State and Territory colleagues – if there is one thing that I could respectfully ask for, that is dedicated, youth mental health units in each of your States, in as many places as possible...
“And then lastly recovery … it’s naturally the States’ lead, but it’s a shared responsibility.”
Mr Hunt said the Government would continue to tackle stigma around mental illness and encourage people to seek help – and seek it early.
Published: 14 Aug 2019