THE release of the first report into the state of the nation’s mental health system has highlighted the challenges facing those who provide mental health services, according to Orange-based mental health specialist Dr Russell Roberts.
Dr Roberts was invited to Sydney yesterday for the release of the National Mental Health Commission’s inaugural report card into mental health in his role as chair of Rural and Remote Mental Health based out of the Bloomfield campus.
Dr Roberts said the disparity between the lifespan of people with a mental illness and others in the community was huge and had been highlighted in the report.
“If you have a mental illness you’re likely to live 25 years less than someone who doesn’t have the illness,” he said.
He said the report showed the importance of an intense and whole-of-government and community approach to improving access to services for people with a mental illness.
“The reality is that there are gaps which have to be addressed,” he said.
Bundling together services to ensure people with a mental illness can access housing, employment and support through a streamlined process is another major focus for mental health care providers, according to Dr Roberts.
Dr Roberts said within the community people may not realise the impact of the effects of being diagnosed with a serious illness, such as cancer or diabetes, and how it could impact on a person’s mental health.
“People become depressed and anxious often when they are diagnosed,” he said.
One of the other major challenges facing the provision of adequate mental health services, according to Dr Roberts, is an injection of more funding.
“When you look at the statistics 14 per cent of people being treated in the system have a mental illness and yet it is only attracting [funding of] between 7 and 8 per cent,” he said.
“We need to address that imbalance and it has to be one of the priorities.”
On a positive note Dr Roberts said members of the National Mental Health Commission who visited Orange for two days last week touring Bloomfield and talking to the public about their experiences were full of praise for the Orange forum.
“They told me they have never been to a forum which was so well attended and where people felt they could connect,” he said.
“They were tremendously impressed.”