State’s mental health system needs serious attention

FUNDING NEEDED: Suicide continues to be the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15-44 years. It claims eight lives every day – more than road accidents or cancer.

FUNDING NEEDED: Suicide continues to be the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15-44 years. It claims eight lives every day – more than road accidents or cancer.

October marks Mental Health Month in NSW and, with almost half (45 per cent)  of the Australian population experiencing a mental illness or disorder at some stage in their lives, it’s time to get talking about mental health.

For too long, the stigma around mental health in the community has meant that those with mental illness delay seeking help, and those feeling confronted with mental health in a friend, family member or acquaintance are often unsure of what to do and where to go for help and support.

Suicide continues to be the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15-44 years.

It claims eight lives every day – more than road accidents or cancer, however, both of these causes receive far more funding and attention. 

In this country, services and supports particularly in regional communities are limited and generally only focused on periods where people are acutely unwell with their mental illness.

With about 25 per cent of young people under 25 years battling some form of mental ill-health, most families would be aware of the struggles that young people face.

The difficulties seem to be increasing, particularly in areas such as anxiety, depression and addiction.

The mental health system is out-dated, with both state based and community based services woefully underfunded. If we have good mental health we live longer, we achieve more, enjoy a better family life and can contribute to a more productive Australia.

More emphasis and attention must be given to improving mental health in Australia.

Mental illness itself can vary from anxiety and mood disorders, to addiction disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder, PTSD, depression, bipolar, schizophrenia – the list is long, but there is help out there for everyone and your GP is a great place to start for information, support and referral.

At Samaritans, we support people with a mental illness in many of our services, including youth homelessness, child protection, support to people leaving prison, disability services, out of home care and emergency relief.

Samaritans Brighter Futures supports families struggling to raise their preschool aged children, because of many issues, including mental health.

Samaritans is a lead agency for the very successful headspace project in the Hunter. The positive outcomes in headspace intervention services are that young people can deal with their struggles early and can continue with their schooling, higher education or careers without too much disruption.

Samaritans also supports numerous locals who have funding for help via the National Disability Insurance Scheme, some of whom may also experience a mental illness at some stage in their life.

Many people experiencing mental illness delay seeking help because they are frightened by the illness and fear stigma and discrimination. 

Reducing the stigma will encourage more people to seek help early.

There are numerous places to seek support to either learn more about mental illness.

 If you need immediate support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

In the theme of mental health month this year, I would encourage everyone to Learn and Grow by visiting the NSW Mental Health Association website wayahead.org.au.

Peter Gardiner is the CEO of Samaritans Newcastle

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