COVID-19: alarming stats show one in 10 Australians depressed

Parents, kids to get mental health checks

 

Every pregnant woman, new parent and young child would undergo a mental health screen under a radical $2.4 billion overhaul of Australia's failing mental health system.

The requirement that a GP draw up a mental health plan before a person can access Medicare rebates would also be scrapped, while workers compensation schemes would have to cover mental health problems, the Productivity Report into Mental Health has recommended.

It also recommended schools play a more important role in identifying children's mental health problems early and more public housing be made available so that no one with a mental health problem is discharged from hospital into homelessness.

The report calls for a new system of care co-ordinators to help people with complex mental illness navigate the health, welfare, education, employment and housing systems so they don't fall through the cracks.

 

A productivity commission report found that even though we spend $500 million a year trying to lessen the prevalence of mental ill-health, it’s not working Picture: iStock
A productivity commission report found that even though we spend $500 million a year trying to lessen the prevalence of mental ill-health, it’s not working Picture: iStock

 

Releasing the report Prime Minister Scott Morrison said "people are still falling through the cracks".

He said his government was committed to creating a mental health system that was "person driven".

One in two Australians has suffered from mental illness and the health system is so inadequate at dealing with the problem it's costing Australia between $550 million and $600 million a day.

The shocking new report by the federal government's economic watchdog believes reforming mental health could save the economy nearly $20 billion a year.

"Australia's current mental health system is not comprehensive and fails to provide the treatment and support that people who need it legitimately expect," the report states.

The Commissioners want mental health care to begin from the moment a child is born and follow them through life and be a key feature of schools and the workplace.

It wants checks to start with the screening of a baby's parent's mental health in antenatal classes or health check-ups.

The report found GP's who deliver most mental health care aren't trained properly and are too reliant on prescribing pills.

Five million Australians see their GP for mental health reasons but six in 10 are prescribed medication only a third receive some counselling, education or advice.

The report found only two in 10 people who see their GP for help receive a referral to a psychologist or a psychiatrist; about 400 000 people see private psychiatrists and 1.3 million people see psychologists.

Up to one million people with mental illness are estimated to be receiving no clinical care at all.

And half of those accessing Medicare funded psychological therapy use three or fewer sessions (rarely enough to enable recovery) the report said.

The report controversially calls for the scrapping of the requirement that a GP draw up a mental health plan before a person can access help.

Instead it recommends a "national digital mental health platform" should include a tool for a common approach to mental health needs assessment and referral.

"This tool should be accessible at no charge to both individuals and clinicians and would replace mental health treatment plans as a requirement for accessing MBS-rebated psychological therapy," the report said.

It would also ensure everyone with the same symptoms got referred for the same type of care.

Access to telehealth (videoconference or telephone) treatment with psychologists and psychiatrists must be expanded to make it easier for people to access help particularly if they suffer anxiety or live in the bush.

It also calls for the government's Medical Costs Finder website to list the fees areas of specialty and fees of all individual psychiatrists, paediatricians and allied health providers for MBS-rebated therapy.

Three thousand Australians a year are taking their own lives and up to one in four who attempt suicide will reattempt.

Half of those discharged from hospital after a suicide attempt do not attend follow-up treatment and the responsibility of services and accountability for follow-up is unclear and inconsistent, the report said.

The Commissioners want mental health care to begin from the moment a child is born.
The Commissioners want mental health care to begin from the moment a child is born.

It recommends new investment in suicide follow up services to reduce the toll.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also released interim advice he has received on reforming Australia's suicide prevention strategy.

It calls for suicide prevention identified to be made a responsibility of the Prime Minster and state premiers and for the establishment of a National Office for Suicide Prevention.

Researchers must study people with a lived experience of attempting suicide to improve policy.

Compassion training is needed for frontline workers in agencies like Centrelink and the Tax Office and in the private sector where people provide financial, employment and relationship support to people experiencing distress.

The advice says it is time for all governments to establish consistent definitions for suicide-related data and collect up to date data.

There should be immediate focus on individuals, industries, and communities most affected by economic downturn associated with COVID-19 to prevent suicide.

There must be early intervention to mitigate the impacts of childhood adversity and trauma, with a focus on children and young people in out of home care.

More must be done to enhance suicide prevention interventions for people in touch with the justice system and those who are homeless or with insecure housing, the advice said.

There should be increased training for emergency departments and frontline emergency services personnel and more alcohol and other drug interventions delivered across settings where people may present in the context of relationship, financial and workplace stresses.

 

 

Originally published as Parents, kids to get mental health checks


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