Mental illness on the political agenda

first_imgLast week signalled a number of pivotal mental health schemes in Victoria. The R U OK? initiative celebrated its annual campaign, aimed at growing mental health awareness, which complemented a forum held in Melbourne by various industry bodies aspiring to address key policy issues faced by people living with mental illnesses. The forum, ‘Lifting the Lid on Mental Health 2014’, was a platform that instigated dialogue amongst industry experts and guests about policy issues in the lead up to November’s Victorian election. Present was the Victorian Mental Illness Awareness Council (VMIAC), Tandem and VICSERV, and 17 other bodies involved in the industry. The forum was attended by Victorian Minister for Mental Health Mary Wooldridge, Shadow Minister for Health Gavin Jennings and The Green’s health spokesperson Colleen Hartland. In an outpouring of expertise, despair, and emotional and mental grief, presenters appealed to the parliamentarian’s humanity, and portfolios, in order to put the issue of mental illness on the political radar.Along with reforms that have already been implemented in Victoria in July (as reported in Neos Kosmos last month), the federal National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) was on the agenda, which experts claimed could complement the state government’s initiatives, if gaps in both schemes are resolved.VICSERV spokesperson Kim Koop spoke of the overwhelming public perception faced by people with mental disorders. Whilst she was full of praise for governmental actions, she warned against complacency, claiming that both sides of politics “need to start looking for dollars” to ensure people with mental illness, and their families, can be active community members. Her claims did not go unheard, with Ms Wooldridge praising the Victorian system and emphasising the current Liberal government’s actions, which include a 25 per cent increase to funding over four years, and a pledge to broaden mental health prevention activities, along with strengthening mental health services, focusing on decreases in restrictive intervention and increasing women’s safety in mental health services. Ms Wooldridge also made reference to GBLTIQ people who may be susceptible to suicide.The minister’s ALP counterpart Gavin Jennings said that the mental health system is faced with a “precarious situation”, and that the links between the NDIS and recent Victorian reform were “a glass half empty” (or half full, depending on which side of politics you find yourself on). Mr Jennings claimed that “real time” improvements are required, but fell short of suggesting what requirements his party would implement, if it is elected. The Greens’ health spokesperson Colleen Hartland said that her party supported the introduction of the NDIS, claiming she would honour the agreement, whilst pledging $1.67-$2.5 billion to mental health over five years, if her party is successful at the November election. Ms Hartland said proposed gaps in the NDIS and new Victorian legislation may be problematic for mental health sufferers, as inherently strict eligibility requirements posed by both schemes make helping those with illness difficult, especially if a patient’s illness is too episodic or not severe enough. Ms Hartland said that the government must look at securing quality housing for those recovering from mental health issues.Greek Australian mental health consumer advocate Evan Bichara, who was present at the forum, felt very positive about the discussions. “I think Mary Wooldridge presented well. She covered the reform processes and she highlighted the fact that it’s going to take time until we see results from these reforms, and I totally agree with her on that, it’s not something that can be seen overnight.“Reform processes have been written down and they’ve been put into legislation but to see them implemented or to see results coming out of them, it’s going to take a fair while before we see anything. I think that’s what she was honing in on, and I’d agree with that.”He felt that the forum was a step in the right direction in putting the mental health discussion on the political agenda.“I feel that to some extent yes, it aired the reforms to some carers that were there that may have not known of them, and consumers as well, it aired those reform processes.”Mr Bichara urged anybody suffering from a mental illness to speak up and seek help. Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img read more