General News Opinion — 10 October 2013
Flawed fixes for mental illness

In 1993, the Burdekin report gave a damning account of Australia’s mental health system. It called on all levels of government to do better in every aspect of mental health service delivery in Australia.

Twenty years on, little has changed. bigstock_Road_To_Recovery_Sign_4438546

This is despite successive governments periodically making significant investments, creating dedicated bodies to pursue reform and, of course, acknowledging the need for reform.

But for those who experience mental illness, their carers and their families, the pace of change is too slow.

After decades of so-called reform, the reality on the ground falls way short of what is needed.

In my life I have been touched by poverty and exclusion. I have seen people close to me living with mental illness, discriminated against and rejected. Despite this, these people have used everything in their power to overcome their illness and make an important contribution to society and to their families.

Time and time again, I’ve seen people experiencing mental illness fall through the gaps in systems often run by well-intentioned, hardworking and committed people.

It seemed to me that the systems themselves worked against everyone involved. The services, designed to help, sometimes led to a deterioration, not an improvement, in people’s circumstances.

Collectively, poor mental health accounts for the largest proportion of the overall disease burden in Australia.

At some point in their lives 45 per cent of Australians will experience a mental health issue, and 20 per cent will do so in any given year.

This year, about one million Australians will experience depression and about two million will experience an anxiety disorder.

More than 50 per cent of people admitted to alcohol and drug treatment facilities will have a history of mental illness.

The National Mental Health Commission’s 2012 report card estimated that about 900,000 Australians were missing out on services that could benefit them. In 2010, there were 2400 deaths by suicide.

In the OECD, Australia has one of the lowest rates of workforce participation by people with lived experience of mental illness.

Australian research suggests mental illness in young men aged 12 to 25 costs the economy more than $3 billion a year.

The next decade must be better than this. The Mental Health Council of Australia’s mission is to create the best mental health system in the world. I believe we can do this in a decade.

If we are successful, we will have a system that ensures continuum of care and an integration of all the services and opportunities that contribute to a meaningful life.

At the MHCA, we propose several platforms for action.

Our first platform for change is that carers and consumers must co-design the system.

Our second is prevention and early intervention. Third, we want a focus on recovery, both clinical recovery (relieving symptoms) and personal recovery.

Next, we want attention to employment and participation. Employers and employees must work together to create flexible, productive, mentally safe, healthy and supportive workplaces.

Finally, we must achieve service integration, with an important focus on consumer and carer satisfaction.

A good society should be judged by how it treats the most vulnerable, how it deals with the ramifications of the poor choices people make and how it treats people with an illness or a disability whose choices are fundamentally constrained by factors that are often beyond their control.

Jennifer Westacott is chief executive of the Business Council of Australia and chairwoman of the Mental Health Council of Australia. Today is World Mental Health Day.

This article first appeared in The Australian on 10 October, 2013.

IN 1993, the Burdekin report gave a damning account of Australia’s mental health system. It called on all levels of government to do better in every aspect of mental health service delivery in Australia.

Twenty years on, little has changed.

This is despite successive governments periodically making significant investments, creating dedicated bodies to pursue reform and, of course, acknowledging the need for reform.

But for those who experience mental illness, their carers and their families, the pace of change is too slow.

After decades of so-called reform, the reality on the ground falls way short of what is needed.

In my life I have been touched by poverty and exclusion. I have seen people close to me living with mental illness, discriminated against and rejected. Despite this, these people have used everything in their power to overcome their illness and make an important contribution to society and to their families.

Time and time again, I’ve seen people experiencing mental illness fall through the gaps in systems often run by well-intentioned, hardworking and committed people.

It seemed to me that the systems themselves worked against everyone involved. The services, designed to help, sometimes led to a deterioration, not an improvement, in people’s circumstances.

Collectively, poor mental health accounts for the largest proportion of the overall disease burden in Australia.

At some point in their lives 45 per cent of Australians will experience a mental health issue, and 20 per cent will do so in any given year.

This year, about one million Australians will experience depression and about two million will experience an anxiety disorder.

More than 50 per cent of people admitted to alcohol and drug treatment facilities will have a history of mental illness.

The National Mental Health Commission’s 2012 report card estimated that about 900,000 Australians were missing out on services that could benefit them. In 2010, there were 2400 deaths by suicide.

In the OECD, Australia has one of the lowest rates of workforce participation by people with lived experience of mental illness.

Australian research suggests mental illness in young men aged 12 to 25 costs the economy more than $3 billion a year.

The next decade must be better than this. The Mental Health Council of Australia’s mission is to create the best mental health system in the world. I believe we can do this in a decade.

If we are successful, we will have a system that ensures continuum of care and an integration of all the services and opportunities that contribute to a meaningful life.

At the MHCA, we propose several platforms for action.

Our first platform for change is that carers and consumers must co-design the system.

Our second is prevention and early intervention. Third, we want a focus on recovery, both clinical recovery (relieving symptoms) and personal recovery.

Next, we want attention to employment and participation. Employers and employees must work together to create flexible, productive, mentally safe, healthy and supportive workplaces.

Finally, we must achieve service integration, with an important focus on consumer and carer satisfaction.

 

A good society should be judged by how it treats the most vulnerable, how it deals with the ramifications of the poor choices people make and how it treats people with an illness or a disability whose choices are fundamentally constrained by factors that are often beyond their control.

 

Jennifer Westacott is chief executive of the Business Council of Australia and chairwoman of the Mental Health Council of Australia. Today is World Mental Health Day.

– See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/opinion/flawed-fixes-for-mental-illness/story-e6frgd0x-1226735687895#sthash.40WxRTjX.dpufIN 1993, the Burdekin report gave a damning account of Australia’s mental health system. It called on all levels of government to do better in every aspect of mental health service delivery in Australia.

 

Twenty years on, little has changed.

 

This is despite successive governments periodically making significant investments, creating dedicated bodies to pursue reform and, of course, acknowledging the need for reform.

 

But for those who experience mental illness, their carers and their families, the pace of change is too slow.

 

After decades of so-called reform, the reality on the ground falls way short of what is needed.

 

In my life I have been touched by poverty and exclusion. I have seen people close to me living with mental illness, discriminated against and rejected. Despite this, these people have used everything in their power to overcome their illness and make an important contribution to society and to their families.

 

Time and time again, I’ve seen people experiencing mental illness fall through the gaps in systems often run by well-intentioned, hardworking and committed people.

 

It seemed to me that the systems themselves worked against everyone involved. The services, designed to help, sometimes led to a deterioration, not an improvement, in people’s circumstances.

 

Collectively, poor mental health accounts for the largest proportion of the overall disease burden in Australia.

 

At some point in their lives 45 per cent of Australians will experience a mental health issue, and 20 per cent will do so in any given year.

 

This year, about one million Australians will experience depression and about two million will experience an anxiety disorder.

 

More than 50 per cent of people admitted to alcohol and drug treatment facilities will have a history of mental illness.

 

The National Mental Health Commission’s 2012 report card estimated that about 900,000 Australians were missing out on services that could benefit them. In 2010, there were 2400 deaths by suicide.

 

In the OECD, Australia has one of the lowest rates of workforce participation by people with lived experience of mental illness.

 

Australian research suggests mental illness in young men aged 12 to 25 costs the economy more than $3 billion a year.

 

The next decade must be better than this. The Mental Health Council of Australia’s mission is to create the best mental health system in the world. I believe we can do this in a decade.

 

If we are successful, we will have a system that ensures continuum of care and an integration of all the services and opportunities that contribute to a meaningful life.

 

At the MHCA, we propose several platforms for action.

 

Our first platform for change is that carers and consumers must co-design the system.

 

Our second is prevention and early intervention. Third, we want a focus on recovery, both clinical recovery (relieving symptoms) and personal recovery.

 

Next, we want attention to employment and participation. Employers and employees must work together to create flexible, productive, mentally safe, healthy and supportive workplaces.

 

Finally, we must achieve service integration, with an important focus on consumer and carer satisfaction.

 

 

 

A good society should be judged by how it treats the most vulnerable, how it deals with the ramifications of the poor choices people make and how it treats people with an illness or a disability whose choices are fundamentally constrained by factors that are often beyond their control.

 

 

 

Jennifer Westacott is chief executive of the Business Council of Australia and chairwoman of the Mental Health Council of Australia. Today is World Mental Health Day.

– See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/opinion/flawed-fixes-for-mental-illness/story-e6frgd0x-1226735687895#sthash.40WxRTjX.dpuf

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