Today is World Mental Health Day. World Mental Health Day (WMHD) is an annual event endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and occurs on October 10th every year. In Australia, the Mental Health Council of Australia (MHCA) is contracted by the government to undertake national coordination of WMHD activities nationwide.
Enhancing awareness of mental health this reducing stigma is the primary goal of WMHD. The theme for the 2011 WMHD is 'The Great Push: Investing In Mental Health'. Does Australia invest enough into mental health services in financial and human resources?
According to the 2011 Budget National Mental Health Reform around one in three or approximately 32% of all Australians experience mental illness at some stage in their life. It also claims that 'Mental illness accounts for 13% of total burden of disease in Australia, and is the largest single cause of disability, comprising 24% of the burden of non-fatal disease'. Should that mean that 24% of the health budget should be allocated to mental health? Not according to the government with a total allocation of $19.75b to health, only $2.2b of that has been allocated to mental health which is 11%. That's over five years as well.
While this amount is (apparently) large there is much talk that removing funding from services such as Better Access and medicare funded psychologist visits are counter productive and will do more harm than good (a topic that will hopefully be covered by a guest poster next week). 11% allocated of the total health budget is still too low, especially as the prime minister vowed to make mental health a budget priority. Maybe the wage being paid to the newly appointed Mental Health Minister could go into community mental health services.
As for human resources, that would be dependant on what the public and private sectors can afford. Unfortunately without money not a lot can run. I also couldn't find much information about whether we have enough human resources but my guess would be no as people still fall through the cracks, some quite easily.
In saying all this, Australia cannot be compared to poorer countries as we are extremely lucky to have the resources we do. According to WHO 'the majority of low- and middle-income countries spend less than 2% of their health budget on mental health.'.
Australia still has a long way to go and some day I hope to see mental health more prevalent and truly a priority regarding financial and human resources. As WHO put 'we need to increase investment for mental health and to shift the available resources towards more effective and more humanitarian forms of services'.