Men­tal well­be­ing elec­tion con­cern

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health -

From Health cover To date, still not all states have heeded his re­quest.

Both sides of pol­i­tics are seek­ing to win sup­port from the men­tal health sec­tor in the run-up to the elec­tion, and the MIFA has sent the find­ings — in­clud­ing its rec­om­men­da­tions for ac­tion — to both main po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

La­bor health spokes­woman Ni­cola Roxon ear­lier this week de­liv­ered a speech to open the Men­tal Health Foun­da­tion of Aus­tralia’s an­nual con­fer­ence, in which she praised the Howard Gov­ern­ment’s ‘‘ sig­nif­i­cant com­mit­ments’’ to men­tal health, and pledged that a La­bor Gov­ern­ment would con­tinue them.

She said gov­ern­ments ‘‘ need to take men­tal health is­sues se­ri­ously’’ and noted that in Aus­tralia the rate of em­ploy­ment of peo­ple with men­tal health is­sues is about half the OECD av­er­age.

La­bor has al­ready an­nounced a $60 mil­lion plan to screen preg­nant women and new moth­ers for post-na­tal de­pres­sion, and Roxon said La­bor would de­vise an in­te­grated na­tional men­tal health plan, and tar­get re­sources at pre­ven­tion and early in­ter­ven­tion.

Kroschel says the short­ages in ac­com­mo­da­tion mean even pa­tients who are not priced out of the mar­ket en­tirely end up pay­ing sky-high rents, eat­ing up 90 per cent of their pen­sions in some cases, leav­ing them with next to noth­ing for food or cloth­ing.

In other cases, while some may get a place in res­i­den­tial re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grams, th­ese place re­stric­tions on length of stay.

With­out suit­able al­ter­na­tive ac­com­mo­da­tion to move into, res­i­dents can end up in room­ing houses or other shared units that might not have proper kitchen or other fa­cil­i­ties — mean­ing that they promptly lose the cook­ing, bud­get­ing, shop­ping or other skills the re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion cen­tres are there to teach them.

‘‘ In the UK, any prop­erty de­vel­oper that wants to tear down a house and put up four units in its place, in or­der to get a per­mit they have to agree to buy a flat some­where else, ren­o­vate it to the stan­dards re­quired by the gov­ern­ment, and sell it back to the gov­ern­ment to be part of the pub­lic hous­ing stock,’’ he says.

‘‘ Then they can get the per­mit for the re­de­vel­op­ment, and they get the profit when they sell those units. They have turned around the lack of af­ford­able hous­ing for peo­ple with men­tal health prob­lems by do­ing this.

‘‘ The sur­vey re­sult doesn’t sur­prise me be­cause in talk­ing to agen­cies, staff, and con­sumers, I know that hous­ing is the big­gest is­sue.

‘‘ I don’t know how in Melbourne we can have home­less out­reach psy­chol­ogy ser­vices — the stress of be­ing home­less means peo­ple will have (men­tal ill-health) episode af­ter episode.

‘‘ If you pro­vide them with hous­ing, you take away the stresses (and) you take away the episodes. You can’t do much if you have no food and you’re liv­ing on the streets.’’

The MIFA has made a num­ber of rec­om­men­da­tions which it says are nec­es­sary to deal with the prob­lems iden­ti­fied in the sur­vey re­sults.

Th­ese in­clude in­cor­po­rat­ing hous­ing as an is­sue in the next na­tional men­tal health plan; re­serv­ing a set pro­por­tion of fund­ing specif­i­cally for peo­ple with a psy­chi­atric ill­ness in the next com­mon­wealth-state hous­ing agree­ment, due to be signed by July 2008; and amend­ing as­sess­ment rules so that peo­ple with psy­chi­atric dis­abil­i­ties are con­sid­ered on an equiv­a­lent ba­sis with phys­i­cally dis­abled peo­ple.

It also calls for the next men­tal health plan to in­clude a role for re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grams fo­cused on pre­par­ing peo­ple re­cov­er­ing from a men­tal ill­ness to re-en­ter the job mar­ket. It also wants more fund­ing for spe­cial­ist em­ploy­ment ser­vices for peo­ple with men­tal ill­ness.

Re­search fund­ing should also be in­creased, the rec­om­men­da­tions say. At present Aus­tralia only spends $6.1 mil­lion on schizophre­nia re­search an­nu­ally, equiv­a­lent to 0.23 per cent of the to­tal cost of the ill­ness, or less than $1 for ev­ery $400 in treat­ment costs.

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