Lucky Geoff Gallop. No, I’m not being flippant or trivialising depression. Geoff Gallop is a lucky man because he can afford to take time out for some proper treatment – and because he can afford the proper treatment to begin with.
Last October’s report into mental health Not For Service came as a bombshell. It painted a horrific picture of the state of mental health care around the nation and called for a major rethink of mental health services.
Most alarmingly, the report found that despite warnings issued more than a decade ago, fewer than fifty per cent of mentally ill Australians receive adequate or prompt medical care.
Crikey understands that Parliamentary Secretary for Health Chris Pyne put a request for additional mental health funds to the Prime Minister last year. He referred the matter to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, who suggested that around double the amount Pyne had asked for was needed – well over a billion.
Mental health services – like so many other medical and dental services – fall between two state and federal stools. We’re left with a situation that would delight Sir Humphrey. People in need of health care suffer – but the states and the Commonwealth can blame each other for the gaps in care.
To his credit, Abbott has been courageous enough to suggest a federal takeover of health. There will be yet more discussions on hospital funding at COAG next month.
But if you, like Geoff Gallop, need help with depression now, that’s little comfort.
Depression is a major illness. We have a healthy surplus. The Commonwealth can and should act while it can afford to.
Some simple cost benefit analysis should show the merits of moving as soon as possible. The wonks can model the costs of alcohol and tobacco use and road trauma and use their findings to justify mitigation programs. So do the same with mental health. The lessened incidence of substance abuse, absenteeism from work, domestic violence and suicide would probably prove considerably cheaper than new mental health services.
Over to the Monk and his scholastic.