Consideration in Detail – Mental Health

24 Nov | '2022

I rise to speak on mental health in Australia following the government’s recent budget. Mental health and suicide prevention, of course, are a key focus of the opposition, as it is for me. As shadow minister for youth, I understand the enormity of that challenge. The opposition has a strong track record of investing in and prioritising mental health support, whether that be at the youth level, through our expansion of the headspace network, which provides critical mental health and wellbeing support to young people across Australia, including my electorate in Southport, or through our longstanding investments in men’s sheds, which connect men in our community and are a powerful tool in addressing their mental health and wellbeing—I’ve got three of those in my electorate, at Miami, Ashmore and Nerang.

The coalition has a strong record of investing in supports for and research on eating disorders so we can better understand the diseases, enable earlier intervention and encourage more people to seek help so they have the best chance of recovering. I commend all healthcare professionals who work to provide that link between mental health services and schools to facilitate the early recognition of and intervention with depression and related disorders amongst our young people. We must acknowledge the struggles Australian youth face. That is why this new government must continue our legacy of prioritising investment in mental health.

The national study of mental health discovered that almost two in five Australians aged 16 to 24 had been dealing with a mental illness for more than 12 months. To help address these issues, the coalition provided funding to further invest in and expand the role of organisations such as Head to Health and headspace, so as to increase accessibility and the availability of support for young people in those communities. The government must outline its plan to ensure that these communities are able to access the supports they so desperately need.

We on this side understand that the risk of suicide is often highest two to three years after a crisis—a pandemic or a natural disaster such as a flood—and many communities across Australia are now coming to terms with those challenges. Communities across Australia have encountered one challenge after another, it seems. Minister: Are you considering further investment in mental health programs, noting the devastating floods that are currently affecting so many in New South Wales and Victoria? Where in your budget is there additional support for these people to turn to?

It’s also critical that young people be at the forefront of these discussions, especially in advising governments of where investment in mental health supports is best placed to achieve real outcomes. That is why I held a local Moncrieff youth roundtable in my office to discuss issues that matter most to young people in my community. Mental health was clearly the biggest issue that they are facing. I heard some very poignant stories from some beautiful young people who came to my office to talk about the top five issues concerning them. Mental health and wellbeing was something that we spent a lot of time talking about as being of great concern to young people on the Gold Coast.

The Albanese government must prioritise mental health and give certainty to the millions of Australians each year who rely on the 20 Medicare-subsidised psychology sessions introduced by the coalition government during the pandemic. Australians have been through multiple disasters and a pandemic, and now there is the compounding impact of the cost-of-living crisis placing additional stress and pressure on mums and dads and families around the country. At a time when Australians need support the most, the government has not provided any certainty in the budget that it will continue the Medicare-subsidised psychology sessions that the coalition doubled in 2020 from 10 session to 20 session. This measure will return to 10 sessions in December unless the government chooses to continue the additional support provided by the coalition, which has been relied on by so many Australians as they seek support when facing these difficult times. Minister: will the Albanese government provide certainty to Australians now and commit to continuing the 20 subsidised sessions that the coalition introduced? It’s a very important measure that is relied upon by so many Australians across the country, including families who are facing challenges and mental health difficulties. Or will you be ripping this additional support away from Australians at a time when communities—particularly those in New South Wales and Victoria, but there is also inland flooding in regional and remote Australia—are currently underwater?

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