Labor’s spin over substance in mental health, particularly in suicide prevention, must be considered in the reality of what is happening to our local community and amongst families.
Suicide is a major health concern, ranking 15th overall as the cause of death in Australia. Suicide is the leading cause of death for 15–24 year olds. Six people take their lives every day in Australia which is higher than the national road toll and yet experts believe that this figure is grossly understated due to the underreporting of suicides.
The latest statistics show that between 2007 and 2010 there was 178 deaths by suicide reported in the Illawarra.
Feelings of isolation or hopelessness can contribute to depression and other mental illnesses, which ultimately can result in suicide.
Psychological autopsies have found that nearly 90 per cent of people who end their own lives had been suffering from a mental disorder like depression. Statistics also show that men are three times more likely than women to commit suicide.
Remember the Labor Party’s 2010 election promise of $277 million on suicide prevention? So, how much of the so-called big spend on mental health has actually been rolled out? In the first year they were supposed to spend a minuscule $9.5 million of the headline figure of $277 million to roll out these vital programs but amazingly couldn’t even manage this amount.
Clearly more needs to be done in the way of providing easier avenues to access counselling and psychological sessions.
In 2006 when Tony Abbott was Health Minister in the former Howard Government, the Coalition made a record $1.9 billion commitment in mental health, which included the establishment of headspace.
headspace is a model for delivering integrated mental health services to young people by co-locating specialist and primary health services at headspace centres.
headspace targets 12–25 year olds with a mild to moderate mental health disorder, and seeks to assist them across four key areas: general health; mental health and counselling; alcohol and other drug services; and education, employment and other services.
Last week Illawarra headspace celebrated five years of service in our region. Councillors, youth workers, psychologists and doctors, past and present, deserve to be highly commended for their efforts and the heavy responsibility they take on with their respective roles.
The Coalition notes, though, that in advocating an expansion of the headspace centres, the current Labor Government is adopting our policy.
However, whilst the Government is increasing the level of funding for headspace, their decision to reduce the number of Better Access sessions may result in headspace centres being forced to use such additional funding to employ GPs directly which could impact on their other core services.
The youth of the Illawarra and their families who rely on this important service deserve better from this Labor Government.
Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells represents NSW in the Senate and her electorate office is in Wollongong.