Philanthropy Puts Mental Health on the Map
2 September 2010 at 12:45 pm
Australian of the Year Professor Pat McGorry addresses the Philanthropy Australia national conference.
A national conference in Melbourne has been told how a multi-million dollar philanthropic partnership has helped make mental health a major political issue in Australia.
Australian of the Year, Professor Patrick McGorry’s who heads the ORYGEN Research Centre says a long term partnership with the Colonial Foundation had led to research that has changed the way mental health is approached around the world, and has made mental health a major political issue in Australia. In June this year, Colonial Foundation’s funding of ORYGEN Research Centre reached $46 million.
Speaking at Philanthropy Australia’s national conference, ‘Philanthropy at the tipping point’, Professor McGorry said that a long-term commitment from the Colonial Foundation was vital to fund research that is now having an impact around the world.
McGorry agrees his role as Australian of the Year has enabled him to raise the profile of mental health an election year.
In June Tony Abbott announced the Coalition’s $1.5 billion plan for mental health, which would provide 20 Early Psychosis Intervention Centres, 800 mental health beds and 60 additional youth headspace sites. The ALP followed with a $277 million commitment to mental health during the election campaign,
While there are differences in election promises, McGorry acknowledges that both parties have now committed to the idea of early intervention and mental health reform.
McGorry has spent much of the past 20 years researching evidenced-based early intervention in mental health. McGorry and his colleagues developed an approach for young people presenting with symptoms of psychosis for the first time, based at the EPPIC clinic in Melbourne.
McGorry’s research has shown early intervention in mental health, particularly in relation to psychosis, not only works better than if patients are left to be dealt with by the regular health system, but it is also cheaper, costing the taxpayer as much as two thirds less.
He says that in the treatment of cancer and other serious illnesses, early intervention is not just accepted, it is seen as critical to treatment.
McGorry could see from his research that early intervention worked for psychosis, but could see it needed to be rolled out across other mental health problems. To do this, a great deal of research would have to be carried out, and funding would be needed for research and implementation.
McGorry says philanthropy is vital to taking risks and funding clinical research such as this, because government will not do it.
The ORYGEN Research Centre today has 165 staff, with leading psychologists and researchers coming from around the world to join the team. Without philanthropic funding, McGorry says they wouldn’t have been able to attract the talent to do the research.
McGorry says philanthropy has made research into mental health possible, as it has funded the infrastructure necessary for research. He says grants from the government and support from universities is important, but it hasn’t funded the infrastructure and facilities needed.
McGorry says big ideas and big reforms such as mental health reform, require generational commitment to a project and they need to be done in partnership with funders who are committed to the cause over a long period.