Hard yards for men­tal health

Benalla Ensign - - News - By Si­mon Rup­pert

When Liane and Tony Drum­mond’s son Dave died as a re­sult of sui­cide they made the de­ci­sion to do all they could to im­prove men­tal health ser­vices in Aus­tralia.

Due to the help of a strong sup­port group they were able to take 12 months away from their busy lives to walk for 10 000 km around Aus­tralia rais­ing aware­ness of the short­falls in Aus­tralia’s men­tal heath ser­vices.

‘‘In Oc­to­ber, 2016, my son and only child sui­cided and we were left dev­as­tated beyond words,’’ Liane said.

‘‘As a re­sult of that I had some time to re­flect on men­tal health care and what that looks like.

‘‘I’ve worked in health care, not men­tal health, and I had some as­sump­tions of what that would look like.

‘‘When I dis­cov­ered what the re­al­ity was, I felt the need to re­ally do some­thing about it.’’

The Drum­monds then de­cided to go for a walk around Aus­tralia to garner com­mu­nity sup­port.

The idea be­ing that un­less the com­mu­nity pres­sures govern­ment for change it won’t im­ple­ment change.

‘‘We’ll be fin­ish­ing the walk on World Men­tal Health day, Wed­nes­day, Oc­to­ber 10, and the Tues­day be­fore will be the sec­ond an­niver­sary of my son’s death,’’ Liane said.

‘‘In the year that we’ve taken off to do the walk sui­cide num­ber have in­creased by 9.1 per cent based on ABS sta­tis­tics that came out last week.

‘‘So what­ever they are do­ing, it is not work­ing.’’

Liane said there were a num­ber of rea­sons why the cur­rent ap­proach was fail­ing. She pointed to the dis­par­ity be­tween the men­tal health bur­den on Aus­tralia’s health­care sys­tem and the amount of fund­ing avail­able.

‘‘Men­tal health ac­counts for 15 per cent of the bur­den on our health­care, but it gets be­tween five to eight per cent of health­care dol­lars, depend­ing which state you’re in,’’ Liane said.

‘‘There is nowhere near enough fund­ing across the whole sec­tion. I’m talk­ing about preven­tion, early in­ter­ven­tion, com­mu­ni­ty­based sup­port pro­grams, cri­sis pro­grams, in­pa­tient beds, post-in­pa­tient beds, ac­cess to ser­vices and re­search.’’

On top of ad­dress­ing fund­ing, Liane also wants more ini­tia­tives like Be­nalla’s Live for Life that tack­les the dif­fi­cult sub­ject of men­tal health and sui­cide in schools.

‘‘Live for Life is a fan­tas­tic pro­gram with a pi­lot here in Be­nalla. It’s an ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams in the schools,’’ she said.

‘‘To me, it’s a re­ally key preven­tion pro­gram as not only is it in the schools they talk to the teach­ers, they ed­u­cate those who are run­ning the com­mu­nity sports pro­grams, they ed­u­cate par­ents.

‘‘It’s fan­tas­tic, it’s like a men­tal health first-aid course. It’s just won­der­ful. That’s some­thing pos­i­tive that is hap­pen­ing and it’s re­ally ex­cit­ing.’’

Liane and Tony are al­most at the end of their walk. They will ar­rive in Can­berra to­day after com­plet­ing the fi­nal 120 km which they set off on after meet­ing with the En­sign in Be­nalla last week.

While there they have ar­ranged to meet fed­eral politi­cians to dis­cuss the is­sues sur­round­ing men­tal health care.

‘‘Sui­cide is the lead­ing cause of death for peo­ple aged 15-44 in Aus­tralia and the sec­ond lead­ing cause of death for 45-55-year-olds,’’ Liane said.

‘‘In Aus­tralia we are ranked 27 out of 32 OECD coun­tries for hos­pi­tal beds for men­tal health per 100 000, and we’re a rich na­tion.

‘‘We have an ap­point­ment with the Health Min­is­ter, the Shadow Min­is­ter for Health and the Greens Se­na­tor for men­tal health, so we are very for­tu­nate that when we go to Can­berra we’ll have an op­por­tu­nity to have a chat with them.

‘‘Un­for­tu­nately whilst we have had re­sponses at the fed­eral level we haven’t had a sin­gle re­ply from the State Govern­ment. What does that say about the state’s fo­cus? To me it says this is not on their agenda.

‘‘But at least we’ve had a re­sponse from the fed­eral politi­cians and we are grate­ful for that.

‘‘My mes­sage for them is that all of these peo­ple’s lives mat­tered, and those in our com­mu­ni­ties cur­rently strug­gling with men­tal health, their lives mat­ter, too.’’

Sav­ing lives: Liane and Tony Drum­mond, who lost their son to sui­cide, are walk­ing 10 000 km to raise aware­ness of men­tal health fund­ing short­falls and high sui­cide num­bers.

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