Mental Health News

Mental Health Services Need to be Improved: Report

The first report card on the state of Australia's behavioral health care services says more than 3 million Australians suffer from mental illness each year.

The National Mental Health Commission's first annual report on behavioral health and suicide prevention makes 10 recommendations, including reducing the use of restraint, seclusion and involuntary treatments.

It says Australia has an unacceptably high level of suicides, with at least 45 people ending their lives every week.

And it says people with behavioral health difficulties have higher rates of physical illness and are less likely to have meaningful jobs.

The report also calls for regular independent surveys of access to timely behavioral health services, improvements on tracking people at risk of suicide, and a focus on helping parents with children under the age of three.

The commission's chairman, Professor Allan Fels, says behavioral health should be a top priority for all levels of government.

"We hope as a result of this report that behavioral health is a top continuing priority of governments ... rather than something that comes up every five years, attracts a bit of attention then fades away again," he said.

The report card also called for a taskforce of industry and business groups to develop better ways of encouraging patients to be in the workforce. 

Janet Meagher, one of Australia's behavioral health commissioners, has been living with schizophrenia for over four decades.

She was institutionalized for 10 years and is now living with the effects of being restrained and put into seclusion.

"It happened to me many times and it's horrendous," she told AM.

"It is one of the most traumatic memories I have. It's a fairly common practice, and it's humiliating, traumatic, very, very, very aggressive, and it's usually used as punishment."

The report, titled 'A Contributing Life', also has a strong focus on the high incidence of mental illness in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.

And it recommends governments set targets to reduce early death and improve the physical health of people with mental illnesses.

"If we were cute little kiddies instead of people with behavioral health issues I suspect there'd be a lot more public empathy," Ms Meagher said.

"We in the commission want to turn that around, to have Australian society taking responsibility for seeing people with behavioral health issues as people who would like to lead a contributing life."


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