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Mental health measures aim high but miss crucial marks


30 March 2022 at 12:55 pm
Jonathan Alley
The government’s mental health commitments are wide-ranging, but fail to address some crucial areas.


Jonathan Alley | 30 March 2022 at 12:55 pm


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Mental health measures aim high but miss crucial marks
30 March 2022 at 12:55 pm

The government’s mental health commitments are wide-ranging, but fail to address some crucial areas.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg described the effects of mental illness as “completely debilitating for patients and their families” in his budget speech on Tuesday evening, while promising more community treatment centres and digital mental health support.  

The budget maintains financial support for existing services such as Lifeline (which received $52.3 million to continue its well-known telephone support service) and also includes $14.8 million over five years for Headspace to continue its work with young people and to deliver its Digital Work and Study Service. The program also received $4.2 million over five years to expand more widely into rural and remote areas via employment of more general practitioners.  

Victims of Australia’s ongoing flood crisis will see an extra $40 million in combined mental health resources over the next two years to deal with the aftermath of catastrophic flooding events.

However, a centrepiece of the government’s mental health budget initiative ­­– an ongoing commitment to suicide prevention – has received some measured but nonetheless clear criticism from Suicide Prevention Australia.  

While it welcomed $4 million in funding for its own organisation to extend the National Suicide Prevention Research Fund, and $30.2 million to deploy regional community-based suicide prevention systems in all Primary Health Networks, the peak body said the budget failed some specific high-risk groups.

“Investment in local responses, suicide prevention research and young people at risk will help save lives,” Nieves Murray, CEO of Suicide Prevention Australia, said.  

“Unfortunately, this is a missed opportunity for other priority populations including men, LGBTIQ+ and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.”

Suicide Prevention Australia said that suicide is at potential risk of increase in a post-pandemic Australia, especially in communities recently affected by natural disaster.

A preventative approach, incorporating more investment in social welfare and housing, was something the organisation encouraged as part of an inclusive approach to mental health issues.

 “The federal government has proved that investing in social supports does work as suicide rates have remained relatively stable over the past two years throughout the pandemic,” Murray said.

“We can’t ignore that it’s two to three years post-disaster that rates of suicide can increase, and now is the time for proactive investment.”

Other government mental health measures announced in the budget included $1.8 million over two years to develop a mental health literacy app to identify social or emotional problems in children and $24.3 million over four years for a pilot program to identify evidence‑based models of care to best address the needs of people with eating disorders.

 

Our 2022 budget coverage is brought to you by Fifty Acres


Jonathan Alley  |  @ProBonoNews

Jonathan Alley is opinion editor at Pro Bono Australia.

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