Mental Health

Our priorities are to:

  • Provide funding to reinstate services provided by the Lyell McEwin Hospital’s mental health short stay unit.
  • Increase primary prevention.
  • Increase prevention which includes effective rehabilitation programs.
  • Implement systems to support mental health care workers to ensure they receive adequate support, and that those who have concerns about the clinical and administration practices in mental health are able to speak out without fear of recrimination.
  • Adequately fund NGOs that deliver community psychosocial support and other services.
  • Provide support for families of patients suffering from mental health who cannot speak for themselves and an appropriate mechanism for their concerns raised to be recorded and acted upon.
  • Give priority to those at risk of self-harm and triaged for urgent help.
  • Publish on a monthly basis key benchmarks on mental health, including details of waiting times for people requiring various types of treatment for mental health problems and restraint and seclusion in mental health facilities.

The cost of mental ill-health to the community is enormous. 

The cost of mental ill-health in Australia each year is around four per cent of GDP or about $4000 for every tax payer and it costs the nation more than $60 billion.

Of all disease-related compensation claims, 77 per cent were for mental health issues, accounting for 19,000 out of 25,000 lost working weeks a year in SA.

According to Commissioner Chris Burns, more than $30 billion was lost in productivity in Australia each year.

As the SA Mental Health Commission points out, every dollar invested in strengthening mental health and wellbeing in the workplace has an average return of $2.30 – a good investment of the mental health of South Australians!

SA-BEST supports the SA Mental Health Strategic Plan, and the work of SA Mental Health Commissioner, Chris Burns, and his office.     

The three core strategies referred to in the SA strategic plan of promotion, community education and early intervention; services and care to provide quality and support aligned to need; and, strategic leadership, governance and improve outcomes are all to be commended.

However, the real challenge is the practical implementation of those core strategies.

What we will do

SA-BEST wants to ensure that those that work in the mental health space receive adequate support, and that those who have concerns about the administration practices in mental health are able to speak out without fear of recrimination. For instance, Sharon Olsson, a former Director of Nursing at Oakden, a decade ago, raised serious issues of resident care, and concerns of the administration of the facility, which were ignored by her superiors. She feared speaking out to members of parliament or the media due to the serious criminal penalties that apply, as well as employment ramifications. SA-BEST believes that if strong whistle-blower protections were in place back then, Ms Olsson could have raised these issues publicly and the ensuing problems and scandal avoided.

There must be a fundamental shift in dealing with some of the most vulnerable in the community, particularly in mental health, particularly from cost cutting to the best quality care.

SA-BEST considers preventative approaches and early intervention ought to have priority, particularly where causes and triggers for mental ill health can be prevented or mitigated. For instance substance abuse can be a trigger and/or exacerbating factor for mental ill health. Substance abuse itself may be triggered by depression and anxiety left untreated and unsupported.

Effective rehabilitation programs including inpatient rehabilitation (in particular for ‘ice’ use which can cause psychotic episodes) must be adequately funded.

NGOs that deliver community psychosocial support and other services must be adequately funded. It would be useful for there to be a robust independent assessment of the benefits delivered by NGOs, measured against other programs, as anecdotal evidence suggests they are highly effective and their funding should be increased.

The Oakden scandal highlights the need for greater recognition and funding for dementia and related conditions, including appropriate training and resources for those responsible for caring for particularly severe cases which need a specialised facility.

Families of patients with severe mental health conditions such as dementia which cannot speak for themselves need to have an appropriate mechanism for their concerns to be raised and acted upon.

For those that require long-term accommodation, particularly in cases such as dementia, such facilities should be located to allow, wherever possible, reasonable geographical access. Those dementia sufferers require regular support from family members, and only having one such facility in South Australia for acute cases is not satisfactory.

Unfortunately like other aspects of health policies there are ‘silos’ between the Commonwealth and States on both facilities and funding. The State Government can provide a strong role to breakdown those silos so that there may be an integrated approach to the provision of services. For instance, there should be better coordination between overlapping State and Federal services, so that people do not fall between the cracks.

There is real concern over the implementation of the NDIS, itself a nation building program for the wellbeing of Australians with a disability. Currently a person living with mental illness will be eligible for the NDIS if it impacts their life in a significant way. However, as the Mental Health Coalition of South Australia points out the role out of the NDIS is “shifting psychosocial support to a much smaller cohort of people - 64000 (12%) of the 230,000 Australians requiring psychosocial support. This comes on top of a reduction of the $10m in the last two years in funding for psychosocial services despite evaluations showing these services were highly effective in supporting people with severe mental illness to lead better lives, increase social inclusion and reduce reliance on acute and emergency care. In SA this equates to 16000 people with severe mental illness will need psychosocial support outside of the NDIS”.

Those at risk of self-harm ought to be given an absolute priority, and triaged for urgent help. Too many lives have been lost because help was not forthcoming when it was needed most.

SA-BEST, as part of its transparency and accountability platform, considers key benchmarks on mental health should be published on a monthly basis, including details of waiting times for people requiring various types of treatment for mental health problems. This would be similar to the health dashboard that exists for surgery waiting lists in our public hospitals.

Authorised by C. Bonaros 653 Lwr Nth East Rd Paradise 5075