Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Aussie mental health services being destroyed by Rudd government

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"I lost my beautiful youngest daughter to suicide 3 years ago... She was not referred on to an appropriate service after suffering post-natal depression... She had 3 children whom she adored, and she had so much to live for. She said to me not long before she died, 'Mum, I wish I had cancer, then people would be more understanding and caring'. We need improved and increased specialised services NOW." --Mary, a GetUp member who shared her story.

No parent should have to experience this. Please sign this petition today before it's delivered to Parliament House on Thursday: http://www.getup.org.au/campaign/MentalHealth

--- A message to you from Prof John Mendoza ---

Dear Pip,

On Friday I resigned my position as the head advisor to the Rudd Government on mental health. And it's because of stories like Mary's and my frustration over the Government's failure to do more to prevent them.

So, today I'm taking the unusual step of writing to you through GetUp to ask you to sign this petition, because I've come to the regrettable conclusion that my advice was not getting through - only public pressure will spur politicians into action.

Every day 330 Australians with serious mental illnesses are turned away from Emergency Departments, and 1,200 Australians are refused admission to a public or private psychiatric unit.

Every day more than 7 people die as a result of suicide, and more than a third of those have been discharged too early or without care from hospitals. For each of those 7 Australians, there are 7 families who mourn them, 7 groups of friends who ask themselves, 'why?'

And every day our political leaders fail to take action, this crisis worsens. This petition will be presented at Parliament House on Thursday - please add your name now through the GetUp website below:


On Thursday, I and over 60 mental health organisations from across Australia intend to present a letter to Kevin Rudd with a plan of action for mental health. But so far, the Prime Minister has declined to receive it, and so too has the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon.

If 60,000 Australians get behind those 60 organisations by signing this petition, perhaps the Government will stand up and take notice. Please join us by adding your name through the GetUp website below:


There are programs on the ground right now, proven to be effective - but we need real leadership and new investment to roll them out nationally. The Headspace youth mental health centres and psychosis intervention services pioneered by Professor McGorry are excellent and can reach hundreds of thousands of young Australians, if we make an additional investment of $250 million a year. The lack of spending right now means that tens of thousands of young Australians have no access to care.

We also need to expand programs for child mental health, so that the parents of every child with a learning or developmental disorder can access effective services. We must also provide more support for the 63,000 homeless Australians suffering from mental illness, and invest in e-health services that can reach hundreds of thousands of sufferers cost effectively.

Lastly, we owe it to our children, and their peers, to implement a national suicide prevention service. Suicide is the number 1 cause of death for men 16-44 and women 16-34 years. But across Australia, life-saving suicide prevention services are starved for funds. $100 million would expand these crucial services and concentrate on suicide hot spots like 'The Gap' in Sydney, where just last week the Federal and NSW Governments passed up on the opportunity to fund an effective suicide prevention project.


For too long, successive Governments have failed to take mental health seriously. It's now the leading cause of disability for all Australians and the leading killer of those under 44. On Friday, the Prime Minister restated his commitment "to do more on mental health" and that the next cab off the rank was mental health." They've been saying that for six months, but if they're serious, these sensible investments can start saving lives and alleviate suffering today.

The concerted efforts of mental health campaigners, including GetUp members, have been effective in securing small pledges from the Government this year - but we need an investment of at least $500 million to start turning this health crisis around. It's within our grasp. A poll commissioned by GetUp this weekend found that 83% of Australians would be in favour of investing $500 million in mental health immediately.

The policies are there, the public support is there and million of Australians are waiting for help - now we need the public political pressure to make it happen. Please join the call by adding your name at: http://www.getup.org.au/campaign/MentalHealth

Thanks, Prof. John Mendoza

*Mary is a GetUp member who shared her family's story with other GetUp members when we launched the mental health campaign. Her name has been changed in respect for her privacy.

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