National Report Card On Mental Health 'Confronting’
27 November 2012 at 11:12 am
The Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, Professor Allan Fels, has described Australia’s first report card into mental health and suicide as confronting.
Releasing the report Fels said these “confronting statistics mean COAG can’t walk away”.
He said that Australia can improve the lives of millions of Australians if the Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers – through COAG – reaffirm their commitment to mental health and have the courage to respond tenaciously to the first national report card into mental health and suicide prevention.
A Contributing Life: the 2012 National Report Card on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention is the independent Commission’s inaugural annual report card and is described as a world first of its kind.
Prof Fels said: “Every Australian will experience a mental health difficulty themselves at some stage, or they will be impacted by the experiences of someone close to them. One in five Australian adults experience a mental health difficulty in any given year, and an estimated 7.29 million Australians aged 16 to 85 have a lived experience of mental illness.”
“The statistics related to physical illness and early death among people with a mental health difficulty are appalling. Their health is worse than the general community on just about every measure.
“People with a severe mental illness have their life expectancy reduced by 25 years on average due to the increased likelihood of heart related conditions, diabetes and obesity. There are many contributing factors and there are no simple answers, but this demands immediate action.
“Physical health and mental health are weaved intricately together and they need to be treated as such.
“It is important that the Prime Minister gave mental health a seat at the top table, making it a matter for Premiers and Chief Ministers, and putting mental health in her portfolio.
“The Commission has been given the independence and permission we need to ‘tell it like it is’. This report uncovers some difficult truths that it will be very difficult to walk away from.
“Australia leads the world in progressive mental health policy, but it falls down in delivery. The report card paints a big reform picture, makes ten specific recommendations, and calls for change in a range of areas where the Commission believes action can and must start now.”
- reducing the early death of Australians with severe mental illness and improving their physical health
- minimising the use of seclusion and restraint
- increasing access to mental health services from 6-8 to 12 per cent of Australia’s population
- making the mental health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples a higher priority
- stopping people from being discharged from mental health services into homelessness or unstable homes
- increasing the employment rates of people with mental illness and paying greater attention to supporting them at work
- increasing access to home based visiting to support families and children
- providing effective, local interventions to prevent suicide
“The Commission also took the opportunity to particularly look at the mental health experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Cardiovascular disease and mental illness are the two leading drivers for the burden of disease, yet mental health is not currently included in ‘Closing the Gap’ targets,” Prof Fels said.
“This is only our first report card, and our first year of operation. We couldn’t address every issue everyone raised with us, but we believe that the community, service providers and governments need to commit to some ambitious but achievable goals in a range of areas.
“In particular, this means all Australian governments setting agreed directions and targets as a matter of urgency, and ensuring that the real measure of success is whether services and support are being provided in ways that make a positive difference to people’s lives. If we fail, we fail those citizens who need us most.”
Minister for Mental Health Mark Butler welcomed the report saying: “What is clear from this Report Card is that there is more road ahead of us than there is behind us and we all need to take up the challenge of working together to build a better service system – a more inclusive society – for people with mental illness.”
National Director of UnitingCare Australia, Lin Hatfield Dodds said: “Too many people living with a longer term mental illness struggle because services and supports are not funded in a way that allows people to step up to extra help when they are very unwell and step back when they are ready for more independence.”
“The National Mental Health Report Card is a timely call for us to make a national commitment together to Australians living with mental illness, to promoting inclusion, respecting rights, delivering better quality services and ensuring support is there when its needed and for long enough to make a positive difference,” she said.
A full copy of the report can be downloaded from www.mentalhealthcommission.gov.au.