The budget’s blue edge

The founder of one of Australia’s most unusual mental health awareness groups, the Blue Tree Project, says the funding boost from the federal budget is a step in the right direction.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s 2021-22 budget gave mental health facilities and programmes $2.3 billion in extra funding.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, almost 11.5 million Medicare Benefits Schedule-subsidised mental health-related services were provided between March 2020 and January 2021.

Mental health services have been inundated with clients during the pandemic as demand for support services skyrocketed.

Young people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and members of the LGBTI community are statistically more likely to suffer from mental health issues. Infographic: Zoe Ostler.

The Blue Tree Project is a not-for-profit organisation that started after West Australian Kendall Whyte lost her brother, Jayden, to suicide when he was just 29 years old and was sent home from the hospital twice.

What began as a symbol to honour her late brother has become a renowned message that “it is okay not to be okay”.

The community has come together and painted 612 trees in blue paint all over Australia and parts of the world, all listed on the Blue Tree Project.

CEO and founder of the Blue Tree Project Kendall Whyte says event activations, community events, and sharing her story is all part of sparking important conversations and removing the stigma around mental health.

Kendall Whyte on the mission of The Blue Tree Project.

Ms Whyte says the budget is a good start to help the initial backlog, but whether the funding will be enough in future is something that only time will tell.

“I think it might assist in some ways, but I know that support services have been screaming out that they’re at breaking point and the demand on support services in Australia is horrifically high.

It may help alleviate things in the interim, but I think in the next few years it will be interesting to see what happens in the mental health space,” she says.

Suicide prevention is a key aspect that the budget is focusing on as $298 million will be dedicated to a new National Suicide Prevention Office.

Kendall Whyte on the federal budget as a whole.

“It’s not about getting more hospital beds necessarily – it’s about changing the trajectory early on – we don’t want to be acting after an attempt, but before.

“Our mental health and our future generations definitely need more,” Ms Whyte says.

If you or anyone you know needs some support, you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636.