What’s in the Budget for youth mental health?
Content Warning: Mental Health & Suicide
Mental Health was the third biggest issue raised by young people in the 2019 Australian Youth Representative to the United Nations listening tour.
The pressures on our mental health system are well documented and are sadly too familiar to many Australians. Young people told us that mental health services are widely inadequate, particularly in regional, rural and remote communities.
This year’s Federal Budget contains $5.7 billion in mental health funding, let’s break it down.
Doubling the number of Medicare-subsidised psychology sessions
One of the key recommendations of the 2019 Youth Representative Report was building the capacity of the Medicare system to provide affordable mental health care to young people experiencing ongoing conditions, this budget goes some of that way.
Currently, Medicare will subsidise up to ten psychology sessions in a calendar year with any sessions after that being covered in full by the patient or through private insurance, if they have it. This budget has allocated an extra $100 million to double the number of subsidised psychology sessions from 10 to 20.
Orygen’s Executive Director, Professor Patrick McGorry welcomed this announcement. “The additional 10 Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) individual psychological therapy sessions, taking the total number available each year to 20, announced in this budget will go even further to ensuring young people with more persistent or complex mental health issues will have access to the duration of care they need,” he said.
SANE Australia Deputy CEO Dr Michelle Blanchard supports the move but said that many people would require more support. “Many Australians affected by complex mental health issues have told us they would benefit enormously from more than double that amount, to be able to see the impact of the talking therapies that would best meet their needs” she said.
Boost for immediate and long-term support services
The budget announced $72 million to support a range of initiatives including a dedicated coronavirus support line delivered by Beyond Blue, extra funding for Lifeline and the Kids Helpline and further support for people why require psychological support to access the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
There will also be an expansion of the Community Visitors Scheme, which arranges volunteer visits to provide friendship and support. Previously, this scheme was just for older people living in residential care but it will now be expanded to include young people, delivered by Headspace.
Strengthening youth suicide prevention
The budget contains $4.4 million for youth and peer support programs delivered by ReachOut, the Raise Foundation and the Headspace Schools Suicide Prevention Activities Program.
The services that Headspace provides in regional areas will also be expanded with a new Headspace centre to be established in both Port Headland and Karratha in Western Australia’s remote Pilbara region and upgrades to the Headspace services in Roma and Emerald in regional Queensland.
The beginning of change.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) have welcomed the additional funding but say that the mental health system needs a big overhaul.
‘What we require is a fundamental reshaping of what we are doing in mental health if we are going to get through this challenging period and really improve people’s lives and the economy” said RANZCP President Associate Professor John Allan.
‘We need novel and bold solutions to address the major – and decades-old – system weaknesses, fragmentation, inconsistencies and service gaps which factor too much in people’s mental health care experiences today.
Support services can be reached 24 hours a day
Additional information and support can be found at Headspace.