MENTAL health services remained in the spotlight this week with Member for Ipswich Jennifer Howard addressing Parliament yesterday on the government’s commitment to support services in regional areas.
During Mental Health Week last week, Health Minister Cameron Dick unveiled the Queensland Mental Health Promotion, Prevention and Early Intervention Plan 2015-17, which aims to improve the mental health and wellbeing of Queenslanders by taking early action.
Mr Dick also announced more than $450,000 in funding to improve mental health through greater social inclusion and community participation, particularly in regional areas.
In Parliament yesterday Ms Howard highlighted the government’s commitment to youth mental health, in light of the LNP’s closure of the Barrett Adolescent Centre, which is currently the subject of a commission of inquiry headed by the Hon. Margaret A Wilson QC.
“The Palaszczuk Government values the mental health of our youth and has committed $11.8 million over four years to rebuild mental health care for young people in Queensland after the last three years of neglect,” she said.
Ms Howard also emphasised the importance of working together as a society that values mental health.
“Mental health is an issue that touches all of our lives at some point, either personally or through the experiences of friends and family,” Ms Howard said.
“Most of us can manage these issues and get on with our lives, but others need help.
“Whether as a government, a community or individually, we must do everything we can to assist them.”
Meanwhile the Opposition today sought a bipartisan approach to mental health support services by harmonising two bills currently before Parliament.
Shadow Minister for Health Mark McArdle said it was crucial politics was left at the door when dealing with such an important issue as mental health.
“Currently there are two bills before Parliament, one introduced by the LNP in April and the other introduced by Labor in September,” Mr McArdle said.
“Both bills aim to improve and maintain the health and wellbeing of persons with a mental illness and ensure Queenslanders are supported through evidence based clinical practice.
“In the Minister’s speech introducing the government bill into the house he said, the ‘bills have many reform directions in common’.
“Given the Minister’s comments, it makes sense to present one single Mental Health bill supported by all sides of politics.
“The LNP has written to the Minister for Health and the Chair of the Parliamentary Health and Ambulance Services Committee Leanne Linard calling for one, unified bill on Mental Health.
“In the letter we have requested an extension of the reporting time to allow for this process to occur.
“We are also open to work with the government on any differences within the bills, proposing for any issue to be set aside and worked through individually to form a set of consensus clauses.”
Mr McArdle said one bill, being supported by all sides of politics sends a clear message that mental health is a clinical area where a great deal of bipartisanship exists.
“By working together we can deliver a bill that improves the lives of the nearly 20% of Queenslanders affected by a mental disorder each year,” he said.
The West Moreton Mental Health Collaborative held a number of free community events around the Ipswich region during Mental Health Week last week, including a morning walk, a community showcase at The Park Centre for Mental Health, an information night and a free breakfast in Queens Park and held a silent art auction at the Ipswich Community Art Gallery. Aftercare also hosted an early childhood mental health forum.
This article first appeared on ‘Queensland Times’ on 14 October 2015.