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Further support for mental health



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JOINT PRESS RELEASE

THE HON. TONY ABBOTT MHR, LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION THE HON. PETER DUTTON, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HEALTH AND AGEING SENATOR CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR MENTAL HEALTH

FURTHER SUPPORT FOR MENTAL HEALTH

Today the Coalition announces initiatives that will provide further support to the millions of Australians who suffer from mental illness.

While mental illness is estimated to comprise 13 per cent of the total burden of disease in Australia it generates just 6 per cent of total health spending. In any one year, about 20 per cent of the population is thought to have a significant episode of mental ill health but only about a third of them seek professional treatment.

These measures have been substantially based on the recommendations of the “six experts’ plan” released last month and they build upon the Coalition’s 2006 Better Access to Mental Health initiative and the commitments outlined in our Real Action for Mental Health election policy.

Many people with serious mental health problems are on the disability pension because they are unable to work more than 15 hours a week. About a third of all disability pensioners can’t work because of mental illness, much of which is treatable and may not be a bar to all kinds of work.

Along with better housing, better employment services for the mentally ill are central to the six experts’ plan because meaningful work is often a vital element in restoring and maintaining mental health.

To address this, a Coalition government would spend an extra $180 million, in line with the six experts’ recommendation, on improving existing employment services for people with serious mental health problems.

A Coalition government would invest a further $150 million to boost the outside services that job agencies could deploy for interventions on behalf of their clients.

To help boost basic and applied research into mental health, the Coalition would spend $40 million to establish a national mental health research centre.

To enhance the quality of mental health workers’ professional development, the Coalition would spend $20 million to establish a national mental health workforce training institute.

The Coalition will also establish a mental health commission to provide expert advice to the minister, to champion mental health issues and improve outcomes for patients within government. At a cost of $40 million, this should strengthen the accountability of government for the delivery of better mental health services.

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The six experts’ plan also recommends that $150 million be spent on better coordinated accommodation services for people with mental illness. A future Coalition government will encourage the states to make this their contribution to mental health policy reform work as supported accommodation services for people with disabilities, including mental health, are generally a state responsibility.

The next Coalition government will have a dedicated Minister for Mental Health and all services for people with mental illness, including funding for employment and accommodation services for people with mental illness, will be brought under one department.

Mental illness will in some way impact on almost half the Australian population over a lifetime. After heart disease and cancer, mental illness is Australia’s most prevalent health problem and as a nation we must do more to address it.

21 April 2011