The mental health system remains in crisis and requires major investment.
Far too little has been done to rectify the declining mental health of Victorians.
In 2020-2021, over 1.1 million Victorians received a mental health related prescription, with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reporting that 73 percent of mental health related prescriptions during this period were for anti-depressants.
The mental health of Victorians should be a top priority for any Victorian government. Reason Party and I are calling at this election for:
- Significant recurrent investment in early interventions for young people at risk
- Greatly reduced waiting times for mental health services and admissions
- Provision of mental health services as part of the response to homelessness
- Increased training for health professionals to identify and support mental illness
- Expand and integrate (via dual diagnosis) mental health and drug treatment services
This is an urgent need that cuts across so many areas of our economy and society including homelessness, criminal justice, drug and alcohol harm minimisation, workforce participation, and occupational health and safety.
There has been some progress in implementing the recommendations of the 2019 Victorian Mental Health Royal Commission, particularly the recent Mental Health and Wellbeing Bill 2022, but the system is swamped and under-resourced.
The economic and human costs are terrible. The system staggers along in crisis mode.
Workers in the system need better protection and recognition.
The Mental Health and Wellbeing Bill 2022 does not contain specific provisions for this, but I urge that in its implementation staffing profiles be extended across allied health workers rather than continue to be traditionally limited to nursing staff.
This would recognise the importance our occupational therapists, our speech pathologists, our art therapists. They have such a crucial role to play in our mental health systems, and that really should be better recognised.
All these professions must work hand in hand; without one of the pieces the system fails.
Two in five people in our prisons have been diagnosed with mental health issues. For women, it is as many as two in three.
Misuse of alcohol and other drugs can be associated with mental illness. An alcohol or drug-use disorder is part of a mental health spectrum.
Young people who are suffering from mental health concerns are at higher risk of turning to substances and are at an increased risk of criminality.
Many early interventions are proven effective at reducing these outcomes. Reason and I believe structured and evidence-based early intervention programs are an investment for the wider community and our youth.
The wait times for patients accessing publicly funded mental health facilities can cause further distress to those needing support with their mental health concerns.
In 2019, the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office released a report highlighting an unacceptable amount of wait times for mental health patients, with some patients reporting that they missed out on treatment entirely or were not given an acceptable amount of time to be treated.
The Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System made recommendations to reduce these wait times, but not enough has been done.
Reason will prioritise reducing wait times for mental health support, as we understand that patients having to wait to access help could cause their symptoms to worsen, impacting treatment, family and social relationships and increasing the risk of substance abuse and suicide.
My party believes in science. Evidence shows that those with substance-abuse concerns are more likely to abstain from substances if they are provided with effective treatments targeting their mental health.
Reason understands that when addiction is treated as a mental health concern, patients feel more empowered to prioritise their health, rebuild personal relationships and ultimately abstain from substance abuse.
More than half of Australia’s homeless are living with mental illness, compared to 19 percent of the general population.
We often hear of people say ‘I can’t treat you for your mental health until you’re treated for your drug use disorder’ or ‘I can’t treat you for your drug use disorder until you have been treated for your mental health disorder’.
It needs to be seen on the continuum. We can and must do both.
Policy Big Picture
DATA BASE: My time in electoral politics since 2014 has been driven by a desire to make the place a bit fairer and better. I have done that through evidence-based policy and first principles including equality of opportunity, accountability, transparency and compassion.
GETTING STUFF DONE: Achievements include assisted dying legislation; improvements in women’s health; better and extended protection for minors in state care; exclusion zones around abortion clinics; harm minimisation reforms in drug law, including a medically supervised injecting room saving countless lives; spent convictions reform; pandemic-specific legislation to force the government to tell us its reasoning behind health measures.
UNFINISHED BUSINESS: The agenda includes further drug law reform to reduce harm; increase mental health care; tax profitable religious charities; prevent publicly funded hospitals and hospices from refusing to provide abortions, family planning and assisted dying; robust action on global warming; a new hospital for Melbourne’s north; formal inclusion of childcare in the education system; religious equality in Parliament, including respect for the non-religious.
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