Federal

May 11, 2011

Mental health: PM, Butler get credit — are professions up to implementation?

Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her Mental Health Minister, Mark Butler, have been praised for their role in the budget’s mental health announcements.

Melissa Sweet

Health journalist and Croakey co-ordinator

The psychiatrist Professor Ian Hickie is not one for biting his tongue. Over the years, he’s been unusually generous in dispensing harsh critiques of many politicians and medical colleagues.

5 comments

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5 thoughts on “Mental health: PM, Butler get credit — are professions up to implementation?

  1. Jenny Haines

    Headspace is not the only mental health program that is desperate for staff. They all are pretty much. The shortage of nurses in Australia has hit mental health services hard and there is a lot of reliance on young inexperienced staff to work in roles beyond their level of knowledge and skill. Workforce planning mistakes by past governments, State and Federal, have left the mental health nursing workforce depleted of numbers and of those studying at university in nursing courses, very few aspire to work in mental health. Just as an indicator -I ask my first year nursing tutorials who is going into mental health work. I usually get no-one in the class. By third year if you asked the same class you may get anywhere between 1 and 5 out of up to 30 in the class expressing an interest in mental health. I have been suggesting for some time to anyone who will listen, that there should be an undergraduate bachelors degree in mental health nursing, a direct entry course. This sort of course has worked to improve midwifery numbers. It could work for mental health.

  2. Harribal

    ATAPS has provided free (or nearly free) psych sessions for people in vulnerable socio-economic groups for years before Better Access. It Works.
    Why isn’t the money being put into ATAPS? Because the Australian Psychological Society thinks it pays too little.

  3. Scott Grant

    I had never heard of ATAPS before now (although it does not affect me directly). My interest in this area is due to a close friend on a disability pension since the mid nineties. For at least a decade, she had pretty much zero access to psychologists and dentists, and gained access for the first time through the “Better Access” program. She now sees a clinical psychologist regularly and gets good dental care. I am somewhat worried as to what the changes will mean for her.

    As for dentistry, forget about the dental hospital. They are so overwhelmed, they don’t do preventive treatment and pretty much take only emergencies, by which time the tooth has to be extracted.

    As for therapy, she has been so damaged by incompetent therapists (both psychiatrists and psychologists, when she still had some money), that I am worried about any changes which might have the potential to deny her access to her current therapist.

    It is ironic that people talk about the shortage of nurses. She was a very experienced clinical nurse with some managerial experience. It is quite possible that, had the mental health system originally given her the support she needed, she would still be employed. The personal cost to her has been immense. But it has also cost society. By not spending adequately on mental health one or two decades ago, society has lost, permanently, at least one very competent nurse.

  4. Sense Seeker

    I am afraid that all this spending on mental health programmes is going to achieve damn little. As in so many areas, it is much more worthwhile to target populations rather than individuals. We didn’t reduce smoking rates by counselling smokers.

    What would really help is to reduce differences in wealth and income, so lower taxes in the low brackets and higher for those with a high income. Socio-economic inequality is a root cause of much misery and (mental and physical) ill-health.

    Firm restrictions an gambling would probably also help, as would taxing junk food (and subsidising healthy foods). Hard to get evidence for, though.

  5. alongside

    Let’s hope that this funding boost prompts an examination of best-practice prevention and treatment models. One remarkable example comes to mind.
    About ten years ago, researchers in the UK decided to ‘get back to basics’ in understanding emotional health. They looked at what new insights the disciplines of neuroscience, sociology, and biology could offer. The search yielded amazing
    results – a series of ‘givens’ or bedrock truths that better explain what it means to be psychologically well, and what to do when things go wrong.

    Reported in a current British Psychological Society journal, this new approach to mental health is proving to be “a highly effective treatment for service users presenting with a variety of problems, particularly anxiety and depression”. A major UK university now offering a masters degree in the approach describes it as “the best organising idea in the mental health field today”.

    Perhaps, the reported ‘quiet revolution in healthcare’ in the UK could offer new insights for professionals here and better hope for sufferers.

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