Mental health care scores F for failure in first report card

MENTAL health services are in an ''appalling'' state, the chairman of the National Mental Health Commission said as the inaugural national report card on mental health was launched.

Allan Fels said on Tuesday that Australia had failed in its delivery of mental health services and called on the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to keep mental health as a priority.

''Every five years or so something is done about mental health and then it gets forgotten, but the government now needs to actually implement their policies,'' Professor Fels said.

"The statistics related to physical illness and early death among people with a mental health difficulty are appalling.

''People with a severe mental illness have their life expectancy reduced by 25 years on average due to the increased likelihood of heart-related conditions, diabetes and obesity.''

The commission had been given the independence to ''tell it like it is'', he said, adding that the report had uncovered hard truths about mental health services in Australia.

The report, called A Contributing Life: the 2012 Report Card on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, recommended reducing the early death of Australians with severe mental illness and improving their physical health; increasing access to home-based visits to support families and children; providing local interventions to prevent suicide; and minimising the use of seclusion and restraint.

Employment rates of people with mental illness also needed to be increased, the report found, with greater attention to workplace support.

The federal Minister for Mental Health, Mark Butler, admitted ''there is more road ahead of us than there is behind us''.

He said a further $4.5 million would be directed to preventing suicide by indigenous people, a major issue identified by the commission.

"We asked the National Mental Health Commission to put Australia's mental health services under the spotlight to give us insights into service gaps, where governments need to do more and where services are working well," Mr Butler said.

"The report card will be produced by the commission every year and will provide guidance to all governments."

The NSW Mental Health Minister, Kevin Humphries, said for reform to occur, there needed to be less focus on announcements by the federal government and more focus on delivery.

But a major review of the NSW mental health system released this month recommended the state system was also in need of overhaul, with services stretched and under-resourced.

The commissioner for disability discrimination, Graeme Innes, said workplaces, support services and families had to be a major part of any reform across the country.

''As such, it changes from just being a medical issue to a focus on the whole person, and how they can become and remain a contributing part of our community,'' he said.

''I strongly support this change.''

The chief executive of the Consumer Health Forum, Carol Bennett, said she was pleased the commission had for the first time provided comprehensive detail on people's experiences of mental illness.

''We have consistently said more research into consumer experience and satisfaction is needed to better understand treatment outside of the clinical context,'' she said.

An estimated 3.2 million Australians live with mental health issues, at a cost of about $20 billion every year.

Support is available for anyone who may be distressed.

Lifeline 131 114

Mensline 1300 789 978

Kids Helpline 1800 551 800.

The story Mental health care scores F for failure in first report card first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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