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Budget is a Big Win for Mental Health

10 May 2017 at 4:57 pm
Rachel McFadden
Mental health has become a priority in the federal government's health agenda with advocacy bodies across the country welcoming the announcement with a sigh of relief.

Rachel McFadden | 10 May 2017 at 4:57 pm


Budget is a Big Win for Mental Health
10 May 2017 at 4:57 pm

Mental health has become a priority in the federal government’s health agenda with advocacy bodies across the country welcoming the announcement with a sigh of relief.

On Tuesday, Treasurer Scott Morrison announced the government would commit a $170 million package to mental health support and prevention, including $80 million for community psychosocial services, more than $50 million to support veterans and $15 million for research initiatives.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said it was “a very significant health budget but it is a particularly significant mental health budget”.

The announcement has been welcomed by beyondblue, Black Dog Institute, Lifeline, Mental Health Australia and SANE Australia.

SANE Australia chief executive officer Jack Heath said it was a step in the right direction.

“We are encouraged by the budget’s focus on psychosocial support for people with complex mental illness, especially those who may not qualify for the NDIS. It is a step in the right direction but we still have a way to go,” Heath said.

“One of SANE’s longstanding concerns has been that hundreds of thousands of Australians living with complex mental illness could lose vital community-based supports as funding is transferred into the NDIS.

“The budget has allocated some resources to specifically address this challenge but there is much more that needs to be done to guarantee that people living with complex mental illness are not left worse off as a result of the reforms.”

Heath called for state and territory governments “to come to the party” and match the investment to ensure people living with complex mental illness did not miss out on psychosocial supports that were “essential to supporting recovery and ensuring people live a decent life”.

Lifeline CEO Pete Shmigel applauded the government for continuing to dedicate “significant focus and funds towards tackling the national suicide emergency in such a holistic way.”

The government revealed it will commit $11 million for crisis support and suicide prevention, $2.1 million to Lifeline with additional funding towards installing barriers and safety nets at suicide hot spots.

Lifeline Research Foundation executive director Alan Woodward said that evidence showed that suicide prevention initiatives at hotspots could reduce suicides by more than 90 per cent.

Peak bodies said it was also significant that Australians suffering from eating disorders and post-natal depression had been recognised as having a mental illness and would be included in $80 million for community psychosocial services.

Butterfly Foundation chief executive Christine Morgan told the ABC she was pleased to hear Morrison refer to eating disorders in the same sentence as other serious mental illnesses.

People suffering from depression and anxiety in rural and remote areas will also have access to mental health professionals thanks to the introduction of a $9 million telehealth program.

A further $15 million will be provided for three major mental health research initiatives.

This includes $5 million to complete work on Orygen’s National Centre for Excellence in Youth Mental Health in Melbourne, $5 million to establish the Sunshine Coast Mind and Neuroscience Thompson Institute as a leading Australian mental health research hub and $5 million to establish a Centre for Research Excellence on Prevention of Anxiety and Depression, led by the NSW-based Black Dog Institute and the Hunter Institute.

Black Dog Institute director and chief scientist Professor Helen Christensen said mental disorders were the main causes of non-fatal disability across the world, resulting in significant social, health and economic costs.

“The delivery of evidence-based interventions through schools, workplaces and primary health care has the potential to reduce incidence of these disorders by around 20 per cent,” Christensen said.

Hunter Institute of Mental Health director, Jaelea Skehan said the government’s announcements were an important step forward.

“We applaud the Australian government for taking this important first step and investing in a program that will have a significant outcome on the community and place Australia at the forefront of translational mental health research globally,” Skehan said.

Rachel McFadden  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Rachel is a journalist specialising in the social sector.

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