WARNING: this post contains material that some may find upsetting and confronting, if you feel depressed and unsafe, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14
We all, who live with a mental illness, have been through an experience where we haven’t been able to access, or been able to afford a mental health service. We have all experienced delays in seeing a mental health professional because there are waiting lists or you have to go through various channels to be entitled access to the mental health service. We all know of someone who has been at their most vulnerable, who are at-risk of self-harm or suicide and who can not get access to a service that will help them.
What are the costs because of these inadequacies and the red tape? Well the costs are far more serious than merely money! The costs are lives, the costs are self-harm, psychosis, and suicide attempts. All serious, fatal and with far reaching consequences than an the individual.
Last week the Australian Bureau of Statistics released its 2012 report into the cause of deaths of Australians for that year. In that year over 2,535 individuals died from suicide! That is 11.2 persons per every 100,000 in our population or seven (7) deaths every day! This statistic of deaths from suicide is the highest in the last decade, and with the rates of mental illness increasing each year, it is expected that the deaths from suicide will too. On top of these many sad and preventable tragedies the 2013 National Mental Health Report Card reported that 65,300 Australians attempted to take their own life in that year. In addition, over 2.2 million Australians have considered suicide in their lifetime and over half a million have acted on these thoughts.
It is envisaged that for the Australian mental health system to cope with the increasing demands from people living with a mental illness the system will need to employ 8,800 mental health professionals by 2027 and that demand will increase between 135% to 160%.
In the last 12 months, Lifeline has answered over 700,000 calls from Australians in crisis, what is more alarming is that in that same year over 160,000 calls from individuals who were seeking help were placed on hold and chose to hang up because Lifeline did not have the capacity to reach them in time.
In the 2013 National Mental Health Report Card it was reported that within our society between 33% and 49% of Australians would avoid someone with a mental illness, 37% wouldn’t employ someone with schizophrenia and 23% wouldn’t employ someone with depression. In addition, 60% of family members report experiencing negative, hurtful and offensive attitudes from the public. As a result of this, 65% of Australians who have experienced a mental health problem in the last 12 months have not sought help for that problem.
Today Sane Australia reported that funding for 49 National Suicide Prevention projects that are currently under way but set to cease in June 2014 are at risk of not having their funding renewed by the Federal Government in their 2015/2016 budget. What all these statistics and gaps in service show is a mental health epidemic in Australia of deaths, and attempts at suicide from an inadequately funded and resourced mental health system that is set to get worse unless the Federal Government makes mental health a priority going forward.
From Sad Mum Happy Mum…..Any death, attempt to take one’s own life or any self-harm that is committed is a tragedy, a cry for help that goes unanswered and an attempt at help that isn’t met.
I know that there is always priorities for the Government in terms of managing their budget each year but what alarms me the most is that it doesn’t matter how many people die from mental illness, how many are hurt by their own attempt or how many can’t get the necessary help they need to survive mental health it still struggles to become a higher priority for the Government!
If 2,000 people died on our roads this year or if 2,000 people died in a natural disaster their would be uproar, there would be Royal Commissions, investigations and the Government would be on the Police and emergency services backs demanding to know why this has happened. Yet despite over 2,000 people dying from suicide in 2012 and over 60,000 attempting to take their own life the following year there has been no uproar from either the community or the Government demanding answers and screaming for more money and more services. Like those who live with mental illness every day and who frequently face stigma in their personal or work lives so to is the mental health system faced with stigma that stops much needed funding and support services from happening to help our most vulnerable Australians.
Is this fair? Is this just?
Few with a mental illness will cry out and protest against the Government over the inequalities within the mental health system because for those living with a mental illness just surviving each day is exhausting without adding anger and attempts to change the system. That is why, while I am one person, with no affiliation to the mental health system, nor a professional mental health worker I am willing to stand up as a advocate for the mentally ill and say that from someone who has experienced the worst of mental illness and who has been through many systems and too much red tape I will be a voice for everyone who is too sick. This may only be a blog, but I believe that at least it is something, it is writing that can make a difference because all it takes is one person who can make a difference to read this.
If you are sitting back reading this thinking she is right and your thinking this isn’t good enough, then you should also be saying I am going to raise my voice too, because until we all start making an uproar we will continue to be unheard and the mental health crisis will only get worse for all Australians.