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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 10 Hansard (17 October) . . Page.. 3149..

Mental health

MS MacDONALD: Mr Speaker, my question is to Ms Gallagher in her capacity as the Minister for Health. Minister, last week was mental health week. Could you update the Assembly on the activities that occurred in the ACT to celebrate good mental health and the work the government is doing in this area?

MS GALLAGHER: I thank Ms MacDonald for the question. As members would know, mental health is a critical area of the health portfolio and it has received a great deal of attention both locally and nationally, particularly over the past year or so. Mr Speaker, one in five Australians will experience a mental illness at some stage of their life. We know from recent research that depression is the leading cause of work force disability and loss of work productivity. We also know that, alongside cancer and heart disease, depression is one of the most significant disease burdens facing our community. We also know that, unlike those who are sick with cancer or heart disease, 60 per cent of people who have a mental illness do not necessarily seek the appropriate services or support for assistance for that illness.

Mental health week, which is held annually across Australia, aims to raise community awareness of the importance of mental health and the services and support available. I think members would be aware of a lot of the activities that occurred across the ACT last week. This year's theme in the ACT was to signify the importance of looking after our own mental health as well as our own physical wellbeing; of taking time out to do some exercise; of making healthy food choices; of taking some time out to be with family and friends; and also of being aware of all of the support services that are available in the ACT.

Last week, along with Mr Smyth from the opposition, I opened mental health week at St Mary's in the Anglican parish centre in Calwell. The winners of this year's mental health awards were announced at this function. On Tuesday in the ACT we celebrated world mental health day with, for the first time, the mental showcase series. I attended this fantastic event. For an entire day everyone who works in mental health-government and non-government-had the opportunity to stand up in front of others and let them know what services they ran. This covered a whole range of services in the non-government area, community health, acute mental health services and forensic mental health services. It offered the opportunity for people who work in the area to get a full understanding of the range of programs that are on offer.

This is important because we often hear the criticism that people are so busy offering their own services that they do not have time to be aware of what else is going on and what other opportunities exist. Some of the programs shown through the showcase were the children of parents with a mental illness project, the better general health for people with mental illness project, the new older persons mental health inpatient unit, collaborative therapy, and the consumer and carer participation project.

Since 2001, mental health has been made a key priority area of the government. We have virtually doubled the spending on mental health, going from around $27 million in 2001 to $52 million in this year's budget. We are focusing our energy this year on prevention,

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