Australia needs a more consistent approach to mental health policy, that doesn’t fluctuate with the weather.
That’s the message from Dr Jennifer Bowers, from the Australasian Centre for Rural and Remote Mental Health, as a national review of mental health services begins.
Dr Bowers says every flood, fire or drought brings renewed attention to the challenges of delivering good mental health services outside the cities, but that attention disappears too soon after the event.
“It’s really after that event that people need to take stock, and what happens is they throw a lot of money at it at the time, but in between times there are no additional resources or ways of actually getting in to those people to get them to prepare and help themselves in the meantime,” she said.
The Federal Health Minister Peter Dutton released the terms of reference for the National Mental Health Commission review this week.
Dr Bowers and other mental health advocates have welcomed the review’s particular focus on the specific challenges faced by rural, regional and remote communities.
The chief executive of the Mental Health Council of Australia, Frank Quinlan, says he’s encouraged by the government’s decision to launch this review early on, which he says shows they’re taking the issue seriously.
In a tight budget environment, Mr Quinlan’s hopeful about government investment in mental health as a result of this review, saying there’s also a strong business case to be made that spending some money on good mental health services and programs now will save money down the track.
The National Mental Health Commission is due to report back to government by the end of November.
This article first appeared on ABC News on 7 February, 2014.