Major parties’ mental health policies slammed

The major parties’ mental health policies in the current federal election campaign are an improvement but still a long way short of Australia’s needs, the chief executive of the Mental Health Council, Mr David Crosbie, said today.

Mr Crosbie (pictured) said the Greens’ policy was the most comprehensive and well-developed put forward by any party, but was unlikely to be put into action.

“If I could choose a policy I would say the Greens, but realistically we know the Greens won’t be in government,” he said.

The policy outlined in Perth on Monday by Greens leader Bob Brown includes the appointment of a federal minister for mental health and 24-hour community mental health services.

“At the moment I’d want to see more detail from the Coalition and Government,” Mr Crosbie said.

Last week Prime Minister Julia Gillard promised $276.9 million to the mental health sector, far below the Coalition’s promise of $1.5 billion.

“Mental health accounts for about 13 percent of diseases and gets 7 percent in funding, but people in the mental health sector think it should be 12 percent,” Mr Crosbie said.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics one in five Australians have a mental disorder and 1.9 million people used mental health services in 2006.

Mr Crosbie said although the Labor policy lacked investment it was strong in accountability and reform, whereas the Coalition focussed more on youth.

The Labor policy outlined by Ms Gillard included 20,000 specialist psychiatry sessions in the community each year, free calls from mobiles to Lifeline hotlines and more non-clinical support for people with severe mental illnesses and carers.

The Coalition has promised 20 psychosis intervention centres, 800 more mental health beds and 60 youth Headspace sites.

Mr Crosbie said he welcomed many of the initiatives each party offered, but there was still a long way to go for mental health.

“I just think we’re fumbling around in the dark when it comes to mental health in this country,” he said.

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