OPINION – When the Queensland Mental Health Select Committee inquiry into mental health was formed earlier this year, I shared my frustration at yet another inquiry. There had been so many over my 30-plus years in the mental health sector.
I also shared my hopes that this inquiry would reimagine the system and shift the dial from simply responding to and managing illness to actively supporting the mental wellbeing of all Queenslanders.
Now that the Committee has handed down its report, where do my hopes and frustrations lie?
Hopes first, then.
The report recommends (Recommendation 20) that the government “expand community-based services and programs” and “find opportunities” to “support people recovering from and experiencing mental ill-health”. It also recommends 5 year funding cycles for state-funded mental health services, which is something we have long been advocating for and one of the priorities listed in our Budget Submission 2022-2023.
There are also positive signs in more recommendations relating to Housing (R.8), Emergency Department alternatives (R.30), Lived Experience (R.4 and R.21) and a raft of recommendations to expand services across age groups and disadvantaged groups across the broader mental health ecosystem.
But it’s the genuine acknowledgement of the chronically dire state of funding for mental health in Queensland that stands out as an over-arching positive from this report. Indeed, its first recommendation is to increase funding and expenditure for mental health, and to “explore all options to create a “dedicated funding stream” for mental health. Because Queensland, has had funding lower than the national average for a decade. No wonder more and more people are having to go to Emergency Departments. If the services aren’t funded, they aren’t there.
So, to the embers of frustration.
For this to not be “just another report”, the State Government needs to act. There needs to be a sustainable long-term funding model in place to deliver the substantial increase required. Victoria has boosted its mental health funding by $3.8 billion over 4 years, by bringing in a levy on big business. It’s one option, not the only one, but already we have disagreement in the media between politicians over how to fund what is necessary.
A solid chunk of this new funding needs to be targeted at community-based services, with lived experience at their core, which deliver practical support for people with mental health challenges, and with an expansion of services, for the 150,000 Queenslanders who are currently missing out on mental health support entirely. The funding cannot simply support the same sorts of services, which some people with lived experience cite as re-traumatising.
The State Government needs to embrace the inquiry’s recommendations, without calling more reviews, evaluations or studies. We’ve had enough. We need a timely response to this report, which shows Queenslanders living with mental health challenges and their families, that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
The Health Minister Yvette D’Ath responded to the report, saying this “is just the beginning of Queensland’s mental health journey”.
Well, we’ve had our bag packed for a while waiting for the journey to begin and we’re read to go when you are.
Chief Executive Officer
Queensland Alliance for Mental Health
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QAMH is the peak body for community-managed mental health organisations, representing more than 100 not-for-profit services that work with people experiencing mental health challenges.
QAMH CEO Jennifer Black is available for comment on community mental health and wellbeing matters.
Media contact: Emma Griffiths, QAMH Director – Advocacy and Communications
M: 0439 971 080