Page 4150 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 15 November 2005

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DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (4.38): I welcome this topic. Mental health is an issue that I am taking a particular interest in. I have had a number of representations from constituents and meetings with consumer and carer organisations. It is very clear that there are quite a number of problems with the mental health system in the ACT. But of course the ACT is not alone in that. In many jurisdictions, people with a mental illness seem to be at the bottom of the priority list. Today’s discussion has heartened me because it seems to me that all sides of this house are committed to improving outcomes for people with a mental illness. I guess the issue is: how do we want to do this?

It is timely that we are talking about this on the day that the government has launched the suicide prevention strategy for 2005-2008. According to that strategy, page 13, it has been estimated that 15 per cent of people diagnosed with depression will die by suicide. We know that depression is not the only mental health-related cause of suicide. We know people who have caused their own death when in a delusional or psychotic state, sometimes within those very institutions whose job it is to care and assist them.

The current government and earlier Liberal governments’ approach is, unfortunately, primarily stuck within a medical model. Too often, they focus on people as though they are just their illness. That is insulting to anybody but it also misses out on the very major part of the way to assist people.

The Not for service report has been very useful. It was interesting to hear it quoted both by people who are criticising the level of service in the ACT and by people who are supporting it. But there is no doubt that it is a timely report which raises issues of interest.

Today the Youth Coalition of the ACT put out a media release, based on its budget submission, expressing its absolute concern at the fact that 24 per cent of people experiencing a mental illness in the ACT will be under 19 years of age. They ask that funding be directed to youth-specific mental health and dual diagnosis services and initiatives in the next budget. I know of young people whose parents are tearing their hair out because they cannot get access to a public psychiatrist, and the waiting period for private psychiatrists is far too long when your child is suicidal.

The Not for service report does provide some interesting quotations. I want to use some of these. A consumer and consumer activist said, about the ACT mental health system:

I would like to know why mental health funding is dominated by the medical model when funding could be better used to develop mechanisms to provide assistance for when people are well. We need to give people an opportunity of a life worth living. In the ACT less than 5% of the funding for health—

Mr Corbell may have a different opinion; I would be very happy to see it in writing—

goes into social programs to help people do what they want to do with their lives … The medical model is about risk management. We neglect people when we leave them to rot—in front of a TV all day! I lost all my social skills—I see so many of my fellow consumers who can’t do this because they have been dominated by the medical model. People go into self-medication with pills and drugs—we are now the

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