Hard yards for mental health
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.