General News Politics — 07 December 2012
Mental health advocates pressure COAG

A coalition of mental health advocates say they will reject the 10-year roadmap for the sector unless governments set measurable goals.

Over sixty representatives have signed an open letter to the Prime Minister and all state and territory leaders ahead of Friday’s Council of Australian Government meeting (COAG).

The letter says the ten-year plan must “do justice” to the findings of last week’s inaugural report card on mental health, released by the National Mental Health Commission.

The report card “identified a tremendous gulf between our aspirations for people living with mental illness and the reality of their day-to-day lives”, the letter says.

“We fear that without real and measurable targets, any roadmap for mental health will fall well short of what the report card on mental health and suicide prevention suggests Australia needs to support what it calls a ‘contributing life’ for people affected by mental illness.

“Can we really have a roadmap that does not specify a location?”

Mental Health Council of Australia chief executive Frank Quinlan said now was the time to set ambitious targets, and called on governments to transcend their differences.

“We can’t let politics get in the way of mental health. Our system is currently failing many people who experience mental illness and this will only change if governments commit to achieving real change,” he said in a statement.

Professor Patrick McGorry,one of the letter’s signatories, told ABC Radio the states were responsible for failing to maintain earlier improvements in the sector.

“Both sides of politics at state government level have failed their populations on mental health where we have seen earlier progress dissipate,” he said.

The letter says targets must be set for areas such as early intervention, suicide prevention, and availability of housing, employment, and education. Failure to do so would be a “grave setback”.

As first appeared in Psychiatry Update, 6 December 2012

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