Greater focus on mental health is needed says expert

According to mental health expert and Australian of the Year Professor Patrick McGorry the resignation of the head of the National Advisory Council on Mental Health (NACMH), John Mendoza, is an indication of the disappointment of the mental health care sector with the government.

Professor McGorry condemned the fact that this vital area of healthcare is largely neglected with allotted funds that are lowest compared to other countries. Mendoza resigned on Friday accusing the Federal Government of having no plans for the future of the sector. In his resignation letter to Ms Nicola Roxon, Federal Health Minister, Mendoza said, that the government had no confidence in the Council’s advice. He said that the council was “seriously compromised” and was unable to offer advice to the government.

Professor McGorry said in an interview, “I'm very disappointed to see this turn of events but it does reflect a very deep level of frustration and disappointment in the sector of being locked out of the health reform process…I think the Government needs to communicate what it intends to accomplish and make a commitment to equity in health care so that mental health gets the same access to quality care as physical health.” At the last COAG meeting this April the Government allotted a meager $175 million to mental health out of billions given to other areas. McGorry criticized this by saying, “I think the whole of Australia was stunned at COAG when mental health was left out because this is a much higher priority than most of the areas that were funded at COAG…There's clearly money for things which I would say are a lower priority.”

An open letter regarding the concerns for the mental health sector is being sent to the government on behalf of nearly 60 mental health organizations. The experts will be traveling to Parliament House to present their letter this Thursday.

It was only last Friday that Prime Minister Kevin Rudd declared that mental health and aged care were “the two big areas still to be done, and we're determined to get on with it”. However similar to mental health experts Dental and geriatric or elderly care experts are also dissatisfied with what they have been given in terms of health care budgets.

A spokesman for the Health Minister Ms Roxon also said that the government is “absolutely frank” with its intensions regarding mental health and “more will need to be done in the second term of a Rudd government.” He also said, “This is exactly what the Prime Minister said on Friday and what minister Roxon has been saying for some time…The government's COAG investments are important in laying the foundations for our health system and setting the system up for further investments in mental health into the future.”

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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