More than a week needed for mental health

Tuesday 07 Oct 2014

Mental Health Week is an important, annual prompt for politicians and policy makers to review the state's mental health services.

In the three years since the Stokes Review was commissioned, the already overstretched public mental health system has been drifting - and not in a positive direction.

Members are increasingly reporting that they are feeling the pressure of the straining public mental health system, with their own health suffering.

The Stokes Review called for mental health clinical staff to be doubled, a call recently supported by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists of Western Australia. Two years on, there is little evidence of progress in terms of staffing or resources.

The key recommendation from the review was a ten-year clinical services plan to improve services, but this has not been implemented.

Progress appears to have been impacted by the merger with drug and alcohol services and the ideological drive to outsource mental health services.

The glacial progress of the clinical services plan is matched by the political inertia around the passing of the Mental Health Bill. The political and policy response to the crisis in public mental health services seems to be procrastination - a bureaucratic response which indicates that the long-awaited clinical services plan and government actions will not live up to expectations.

The review noted that "mental health clinicians are severely overworked in almost all areas, which invariably has led to incomplete services being supplied to patients in some areas."

Mental Health Week is about raising awareness - and there are many worthwhile events, but it is also a time to consider what we can do to improve our mental health services.

The burning question is whether the government is prepared to make the desperately needed additional budget commitment to sufficiently fund the mental health system to implement an effective mental health plan - and not just talk about it.

Ask your MP what they are doing to make mental health services better.

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