Last Friday on Brisbane local radio, ABC managing director Mark Scott spoke with host Spencer Howson about the week’s two major organisational concerns. The first was the “Mental As” suite of programming, which aimed to support national discussion during Mental Health Week. The second was funding cuts to the ABC. The corporation’s most senior employee was able to speak to the need for talk on what most everyone agrees is an urgent health concern and the need for funding to the kind of broadcaster that airs such talk. The curious thing was that amid Scott’s week of mental health-themed television, the question of funding to mental health services was itself barely raised.
This is not to say that the “Mental As” week was awful, although some of it really was. The “Crack Up” evening of variety fundraising was largely a roll call of cross-network do-gooders for whom Looking Very Concerned in public forms part of their personal brand. Jessica Rowe, who has previously written on the powerful topic of a woman’s right to choose cosmetic surgery, was there, and so was David Koch, who famously followed the harsh Kokoda march in a T-shirt advertising his network. Everyone on this and many other programs during the week agreed that “no one ever talks about mental health”-- even though the most cursory search of any national news database will show that mental health is up there with the evil of Muslims as one of our preferred objects of journalism -- and everyone congratulated themselves for finally “shining a light” on a topic that is so often illuminated by concern.