General

Mental health matters

Source: WA Mental Health

The state government today announced it is investing a record $306 million into WA mental health services, as part of the 2020-21 state budget.

Western Australian Association for Mental Health chief executive Taryn Harvey says the COVID-19 pandemic has forced a focus on the social factors linked to mental health.

“We think it’s important we take this opportunity of community awareness to bring
attention to the need to safeguard people’s social determinants of mental health as we look towards recovery from the pandemic,” she says.

The federal government says mental health and suicide prevention is a national priority with $5.7 billion allocated to mental health services.

Tuesday’ federal budget also promised funding for emergency response measures, including distress and trauma counselling, training and support for frontline emergency personal, and funding for Kids Helpline and Lifeline.

The budget will allow Medicare-funded psychological services to double from 10 to 20 sessions, in response to the recommendation by the Productivity Commission report, with an added investment of $100.8 million.

MindWise psychologist Michelle Hanratty says the increase in Medicare-funded sessions is a welcome one, especially as they have never been busier.

Psychologist Michelle Hanratty on the doubling of Medicare-funded psychological sessions.

“Since Covid, I have seen a massive uptake of people sourcing referrals, for a variety of issues,” Ms Hanratty says.

“Many young people with existing mental health issues found Coronavirus and lockdown exacerbated their health.”

Curtin students on mental health. Video: Amy Kennedy.

The Federal Government is currently implementing the largest expansion of Headspace networks to date, with the current network of 124 services to grow to 153 services nationally by 2022.

Headspace chief executive Jason Trethowan said in a statement this week he applauds the federal government’s announcement placing emphasis on Individual Placement and Support, as a way for young people experiencing mental illnesses to get specialised help.

“Nationally, a third of young people between 17 and 25 accessing headspace services, aren’t engaged in employment, education and training. With this sadly being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.

“We know the long-term social and economic impacts on the lives of young people as a result of the COVID-19 virus have the potential to influence their and their family’s mental health and wellbeing for many years.”

Helping Minds is a community based support network, and chief executive Deborah Childs says the increase in funding to services like Headspace is very welcome, but there needs to be a bigger emphasis on strategic planning from the government.

“Sufficient money is being awarded to clinical and hospital support but we need to see community support given more recognition,” she says.

“Funding not only for people suffering mental health illnesses, but for family members and carers, they are at higher risk [of] developing their own mental health issues.”

Ms Childs says there was a 28 per cent increase in calls to Helping Minds in both August and September.

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