Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 3 Hansard (11 March) . . Page.. 1101..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
anywhere to go, so things have improved over the past 10 years. However, mentally ill persons in hospital receive 24-hour, round-the-clock care. Everything is on call. Then they are just released. Usually the most they can expect to get is five hours a day care. That leaves a whole lot of hours in the day where they're not getting intensive support. These transitions need to be better managed and support needs to be given so that people are learning to deal with their illness and to look after themselves. Of course, we need timely and appropriate services when a crisis does occur and enough capacity in our hospital system for patients to stay as long as they need. We have had the discussion about the lack of a secure mental health facility in the territory, and we need to have that discussion here in the chamber.
The Chief Minister opposed a criminal psychiatric institution because he claimed the demand would not justify the cost, but if this option is ruled out something else needs to take its place. The only solution we have seen from the government is another working party. We need some action to help people at their most desperate. I would like also to talk about what's happening to young people in mental health. Over the past couple of years we have had a lot of awareness-raising programs about youth suicide and about mental health problems of our young people. I take this opportunity to remind people that Friday 2 April is National Board Shorts Day, which is a fundraising and awareness day for the organisation Here for Life, who is dedicated to raising awareness of and preventing youth suicide. Mental illness and depression are frequent reasons why young people attempt suicide and these are real problems that need real solutions. We need to put resources towards empowering young people so they are able to help themselves.
We talk about building resilience in young people and we have identified all of these problems but the resources are going to programs to help on the ground. We have had great pilot programs, which then suffer from lack of funding. There's no continuum of care, there's no ongoing support. People might get great support over here but if something flares up again they get put on a merry-go-round. As the report says, we need to help people off the merry-go-round. With all the resources and all the talk that's coming from the government, that's what we need to focus on. That way we can start to make life better for those people who experience crisis while they're suffering from mental health problems.
MR STEFANIAK (4.36): One of the crucial issues and the one I will start with is the need for a secure mental health facility. Quite clearly, when in the space of three or four months probably half the magistrates on the bench are stressing the need for such a facility, it is time the government listened to that. That is the first point I want to make. We do not have a secure mental health facility here. There are some significant problems because of that. Today I was reading about a woman who for her own safety and the safety of the community quite honourably said, "Send me to the remand centre". I think she now probably has bail. She feels a bit better, she is stabilised, and can go back into the community. Clearly, someone in that situation should be able to be put into a secure facility for that purpose. So many people caught up in the criminal justice system would be far better off because of their problems being treated in a different way-hence the secure mental health facility. I impress that upon the government.
I have had a number of dealings-as most members in the Assembly have-with persons who have mental health problems. Some basic improvements can be made. One fellow came down from Queensland where he was still on some sort of community order or