Early Intervention Needed for Mental Health – Report Card
Wednesday, 27th November 2013 at 2:01 pm
A leading social services Not for Profit has welcomed the National Mental Health Commission’s 2013 National Report Card on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, which has called for national, systematic and adequately funded early intervention approaches to mental health.
UnitingCare Australia National Director Lin Hatfield Dodds said the organisation echoed the Report Card’s recommendation on the importance of prevention and early intervention, and the focus on whole-of-life actions.
“We can have a society in which people with mental ill health are supported in their recovery and can attain the foundations for a contributing life – quality health care and stable housing, as well as employment and educational opportunities. Any plan for a prosperous future for Australia should include mental health reforms as an integral component,” Hatfield Dodds said.
The report card showed that the highest barriers were often faced by: people with mental illness in prisons and ex-prisoners; young people in juvenile justice systems; and, people struggling with mental illness and difficulties with drug and alcohol use.
The report card said that “discrimination just adds to their exclusion. Not intervening early cements their disadvantage.”
The 2013 report card made eight recommendations – adding to the 10 recommendations made in 2012 – which are:
People with co-existing mental health difficulties and substance use problems must be offered appropriate and closely co-ordinated assessment, response and follow-up for their problems;
National, systematic and adequately funded early intervention approaches must remain. This must be accompanied by robust evaluation to support investment decisions, with a focus on implementation, outcomes and accountability;
A National Mental Health Peer Workforce Development Framework must be created and implemented in all treatment and support settings. Progress must be measured against a national target for the employment and development of the peer workforce;
A practical guide for the inclusion of families and support people in services must be developed and implemented, and this must include consideration of the services and supports that they need to be sustained in their role;
The Commission calls for the implementation and ongoing evaluation of a sustained, multi-faceted national strategy for reducing discrimination. It must be centred on community-level initiatives, and be targeted at areas and groups most resistant to change and where there is the most potential to bring about improvement, consistent with the evidence;
All Australians need access to alternative (and innovative) pathways through school, tertiary and vocational education and training;
Where people with mental health difficulties, their families and supporters come into contact with the criminal justice system and forensic services, practices which promote a rights and recovery focus and which will reduce recidivism must be supported and expanded;
Governments must sign up to national targets to reduce suicide and suicide attempts and make a plan to reach them. These targets must be based on detailed modelling.
In an open letter to the Prime Minister as part of the report, National Mental Health Commission Chair Professor Allan Fels said: “Disappointingly, we continue to hear of poor experiences, marginalisation and discrimination.
“We observe a concerning trend of services retreating from their roles and of governments retreating from their funding commitments to support people in the community. Again, this is poor economics.
“This Report Card sits above the different views and vested interests that have too often led to disunity and competitiveness.
“These debates draw energy away from what the 7.3 million Australians who today have a lived experience of mental illness deserve. Australians deserve a reform plan with a clear destination and funding to match which is undertaken in a spirit of genuine co-operation.”
In September, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced the Commission would be tasked with undertaking a national review of mental health services in Australia.
“This will be an independent review of the effectiveness of the current mental health system,” Prof Fells said, in his letter to the Prime Minister.
“The review will provide your Government with evidence upon which to make future policy and investment decisions. You can expect our recommendations to be clear and frank.
“Until it conducts the review the Commission is unable to tell you whether government expenditure of almost $6.9 billion (or $309 per Australian) on specialist mental health services in 2010/11 was being spent to the best effect and on the supports that have the greatest positive impact on people and families.
“As significant as this investment is, it is not enough to truly alleviate the burden associated with mental illness.
“In Australia, the total mental health budget is itself only 6.5 per cent of the health budget when the total burden of disease due to mental illness suggests this should be closer to 14 per cent.”
Hatfield Dodds said UnitingCare Australia supported the Government’s commitment to mental health reform, and ”their timely engagement of the National Mental Health Commission to undertake an independent, comprehensive review of the effectiveness of the current mental health system and outcomes”.