Mental health: Patrick McGorry says suicide rates now 'a king tide'

mental health australiaAwareness about mental illness is being substituted for meaningful political action on the issue, the world-leading psychiatrist Prof Patrick McGorry has told the National Press Club in Canberra, adding that the leaders of the major parties had failed to outline the kinds of policies required to save lives.

“Suicide rates have become a king tide, more than double the road toll, but awareness and rhetoric won’t fix that,” McGorry, a former Australian of the year, said on Thursday.

“Awareness is a glass ceiling and no substitute for action and investment. The soft bigotry of low expectations is a killer and we have few political champions. Awareness has not automatically led to the progress we need. There is no trickle-down effect. In fact, we see the reverse.”

The Greens leader, Richard Di Natale, who is a former GP, announced the Greens’ mental health policy last month. It includes an additional $1.4bn in funding to the mental health sector, a greater emphasis on health promotion, prevention and early diagnosis, and reforms of end-of-life care including developing a framework to introduce voluntary euthanasia.

The Coalition has not allocated additional mental health funding in the election campaign so far. The health minister, Sussan Ley, said she welcomed McGorry’s speech.

“We promised to make mental health a first-term priority and, from next month, we are delivering the changes some of this nation’s top mental health experts recommended,” she said.

“That wide-ranging review of existing mental health services indicated it was not about more money, it is about allocating what is a substantial amount of funding more effectively, and this is exactly what we are doing.”

In November Ley announced changes to the sector, including the consolidation of more than 30 government-funded phone and online services into a single helpline for people living with mental illness. She announced coordinated packages of care for people with severe and complex needs to be accessed through primary healthcare networks, and the development of a Digital Mental Health Gateway to help people access support online.

The reforms were in response to recommendations made by the National Mental Health Commission, delivered in 2014. To read more click here.

The 17th International Mental Health Conference will be held at the brand new Sea World Resort Conference Centre on the Gold Coast, QLD from the 11 -12 August 2016.

You are invited to join us as we address the conference theme “Guiding the Change” across the broad spectrum of mental disorders. To register for the conference CLICK HERE.

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