Legislative Council: Wednesday, November 30, 2022


Matters of Interest

Mental Health

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY (15:21): I rise to speak about the massive investment the state Labor government is making in the mental health sector. We are pumping $294 million into the sector to give those suffering—too often in silence and unnoticed—their best chance of recovery and the opportunity to lead happy, productive lives. The once-in-a-lifetime increase in funding will provide more hospital beds, expert care and family support that has been so sadly missing.

We all talk about mental health being a serious issue, but too often it is the poor relation of the health system, and despite a lot of lip service, media and suggestions to the contrary, it is just not taken seriously. I personally have heard of cases where too often patients in need of mental health care have been discharged from hospital. This should never happen. I trust this injection of money into the system will greatly reduce this sort of thing happening in future.

I used the word 'investment' quite intentionally earlier. The funds going into the mental health sector are a genuine investment, not only in the patient themselves but their families and loved ones who are often dealing with overwhelming stress and anxiety as they watch the person they love suffer. It is also an investment in the state's future, as we gain the benefit of having people otherwise lost in the mire of mental illness contributing in a very productive way.

These mental health patients, whether they are suffering from depression, anxiety, dysphoria, schizophrenia, a debilitating phobia, or any one of the range of disorders, are not able to be productive while they are in this situation. It means that, instead of contributing to our society and even the economy, they are too busy trying to get well just to get through the next day.

Of course, mental health is more important than simply budget bottom lines; the health of a state or a community relies on the health of its people. While we have people in our society who are not able to function because of their disorder, we must be concerned. Many are dealing with their mental health issues privately and are suffering in silence, but others have conditions that make them a serious threat to themselves and others. We are not a healthy community until everyone is healthy. Certain mental illnesses going untreated can make the sufferer straight-out dangerous to the community: they can be a suicide risk and they can be a threat to the people with whom they live.

We have heard about far too many cases of serious violent crimes being committed by people with mental health issues who simply should not be walking around without the right treatment. Too often, people are not being properly treated and are not getting better, simply because they have fallen through the cracks and are continuing on a downward spiral to the point where they feel hopeless and worthless.

This groundbreaking investment in mental health will be life-changing for many, and it could even be life-saving for some. Anecdotally or not, we cannot afford to hear of cases where someone with a severe mental disorder has been released from hospital, for any reason. It is not good for the community, it is not good for them and it is not good for anyone.