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02 Mar 2018

In January 2018, the AMA released the position statement Mental Health – 2018. The position was the result of a long process led by the AMA Working Group, chaired by Dr Tony Bartone and included Dr Steve Kisely, Dr Dave Mountain, Dr Richard Kidd, Dr Sandra Hirowatari, and Rob Thomas.

As was noted in the July 2017 AMAPG Newsletter, this position statement was originally developed in 2010 and a draft version produced in 2011 through the AMA Public Health section. It ran to 13 pages and the Working Group considered this draft too long and unwieldy a document. Over several teleconferences and many email exchanges, the Working Group completed the 2018 position statement, which is a complete revision from the 2011 paper. The position statement released by the AMA in January was designed to conform to the standard format of AMA position statements.

The Position Statement was on the agenda for discussion at the November 2017 Federal Council meeting. It was noted that mental health is obviously a very complex and contested area of health care. Even the words used to discuss mental illness and certain conditions can be contentious. Dr Bartone told Federal Council that mental health is such an enormous subject that it was difficult for the Working Group to create a single, concise document.

The Working Group recognised that there will be issues, subject areas and aspects of mental health care that many not have been addressed in ways that some Federal Council members might have preferred, however, the Working Group strived to construct a document that was not too long or unwieldy yet covered the main issues and policy considerations.  No position statement on mental health can possibly encompass the scope and complexity of the problems, however this position statement has provided the AMA with an advocacy platform and a clear sense of what is being called for to meet the needs of people with mental health problems.

There are other AMA position statements that cover related public health issues, such as alcohol and drug use, domestic violence, gambling and social determinants of health – so there was an awareness of not duplicating positions that are already publicly available.  With other reforms being undertaken, in particular the NDIS and PHNs, this position statement clearly identified the deficits and failings in mental care services, funding and resourcing.

In regard to media coverage, News Corp papers ran a national exclusive on 14 January.  Under heading such as ‘AMA in mental health warning’, the media coverage focused on the lack of vision for the mental health system of the future, and workforce shortages. The AMA Public Health secretariat received many emails congratulating the AMA on this release, including a prominent mental health expert who wrote, “At least someone knows what advocacy looks like.”


The Mental Health – 2018 Position Statement can be found here

Published: 02 Mar 2018