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On a lack of assistance for depression

I have suffered from chronic depression since I was about 11, when my father died. He committed suicide, I later found out, so he probably also wrestled with depression. So I am completely in agreement with Professor John Mendoza, who has resigned as head advisor to the Australian government on mental health for their lack of action, like every government in 25 years before. Beneath the fold is what the excellent activist group GetUp sent to me. I support GetUp with whatever I can afford, and so should you if you are Australian. The lack of mental health services in Australia is a total scandal, brought about in part by the enthusiastic “de-institutionalisation” of the 80s that was not replaced by added outpatient services or assisted living.

“I lost my beautiful youngest daughter to suicide 3 years ago… She was not referred on to an appropriate service after suffering post-natal depression… She had 3 children whom she adored, and she had so much to live for. She said to me not long before she died, ‘Mum, I wish I had cancer, then people would be more understanding and caring’. We need improved and increased specialised services NOW.” –Mary, a GetUp member who shared her story.

No parent should have to experience this. Please sign this petition today before it’s delivered to Parliament House on Thursday: http://www.getup.org.au/campaign/MentalHealth

— A message to you from Prof John Mendoza —

Dear John,

On Friday I resigned my position as the head advisor to the Rudd Government on mental health. And it’s because of stories like Mary’s and my frustration over the Government’s failure to do more to prevent them.

So, today I’m taking the unusual step of writing to you through GetUp to ask you to sign this petition, because I’ve come to the regrettable conclusion that my advice was not getting through – only public pressure will spur politicians into action.

Every day 330 Australians with serious mental illnesses are turned away from Emergency Departments, and 1,200 Australians are refused admission to a public or private psychiatric unit.

Every day more than 7 people die as a result of suicide, and more than a third of those have been discharged too early or without care from hospitals. For each of those 7 Australians, there are 7 families who mourn them, 7 groups of friends who ask themselves, ‘why?’

And every day our political leaders fail to take action, this crisis worsens. This petition will be presented at Parliament House on Thursday – please add your name now through the GetUp website below:

www.getup.org.au/campaign/MentalHealth

On Thursday, I and over 60 mental health organisations from across Australia intend to present a letter to Kevin Rudd with a plan of action for mental health. But so far, the Prime Minister has declined to receive it, and so too has the Health Minister, Nicola Roxon.

If 60,000 Australians get behind those 60 organisations by signing this petition, perhaps the Government will stand up and take notice. Please join us by adding your name through the GetUp website below:

www.getup.org.au/campaign/MentalHealth

There are programs on the ground right now, proven to be effective – but we need real leadership and new investment to roll them out nationally. The Headspace youth mental health centres and psychosis intervention services pioneered by Professor McGorry are excellent and can reach hundreds of thousands of young Australians, if we make an additional investment of $250 million a year. The lack of spending right now means that tens of thousands of young Australians have no access to care.

We also need to expand programs for child mental health, so that the parents of every child with a learning or developmental disorder can access effective services. We must also provide more support for the 63,000 homeless Australians suffering from mental illness, and invest in e-health services that can reach hundreds of thousands of sufferers cost effectively.

Lastly, we owe it to our children, and their peers, to implement a national suicide prevention service.Suicide is the number 1 cause of death for men 16-44 and women 16-34 years. But across Australia, life-saving suicide prevention services are starved for funds. $100 million would expand these crucial services and concentrate on suicide hot spots like ‘The Gap’ in Sydney, where just last week the Federal and NSW Governments passed up on the opportunity to fund an effective suicide prevention project.

www.getup.org.au/campaign/MentalHealth

For too long, successive Governments have failed to take mental health seriously. It’s now the leading cause of disability for all Australians and the leading killer of those under 44. On Friday, the Prime Minister restated his commitment “to do more on mental health” and that the next cab off the rank was mental health.” They’ve been saying that for six months, but if they’re serious, these sensible investments can start saving lives and alleviate suffering today.

The concerted efforts of mental health campaigners, including GetUp members, have been effective in securing small pledges from the Government this year – but we need an investment of at least $500 million to start turning this health crisis around. It’s within our grasp. A poll commissioned by GetUp this weekend found that 83% of Australians would be in favour of investing $500 million in mental health immediately.

The policies are there, the public support is there and million of Australians are waiting for help – now we need the public political pressure to make it happen. Please join the call by adding your name at:http://www.getup.org.au/campaign/MentalHealth

Thanks,

Prof. John Mendoza

*Mary is a GetUp member who shared her family’s story with other GetUp members when we launched the mental health campaign. Her name has been changed in respect for her privacy.

6 Comments

  1. Neil Neil

    The Age reported on Sunday that there 12 in-patient mental health beds in Victoria 12 !

  2. Brian Brian

    It truly is a scandal. As the story says, if you have something physical like cancer, or a wound, you’ll get treated and get understanding. If it’s mental, then it’s something nobody wants to talk about.

    I suffered depression or something like it in my 20’s. I slowly came out of it as I got to my 30’s and got help from a shrink. Much better these days.

    Is it odd that many would say what differentiates humans from non-humans is that we’re rational. Why then when the rational bit goes awry, we don’t step in and give support? Perhaps we view a person who has mental issues as subhuman or non-human to the extent their issues affect their rationality?

  3. Dornier Pfeil Dornier Pfeil

    De-institutionalization went on elsewhere in the same time frame. The state I live in dropped to less than .01% of its pre 80’s budgets and hasn’t moved since no matter how much screaming goes on. It is not like the state hospitals were all that wonderful anyway, but when they closed and literally nothing replaced them, we discovered what could actually be worse than a state run hospital. The current budget problems just reinforce that nothing will change this year either. I don’t know what more to say. I hope you alteast have family. I have been single and zero for long enough to know just how important that one thing is.

  4. Jeb Jeb

    Its also terrible in the uk. G.P’s are particularly bad on this, it seems to be viewed as some moral failing.

    I developed problems with depression and anxiety at uni. As I have a family I had to work day and night without any holidays for my five years in the Ivory towers.

    As students were at the time unable to claim benefits that working people with families are it meant in the summer time I had to take two jobs
    work 8 a.m until 11 p.m. and still did not have enough money to cover rent and food.

    Felt like I was living in a victorian novel. When you are working like that and can’t even afford a beer at the end of the week it becomes somewhat stressfull over time.

    Treatment was dreadfull. I was not given any and eventualy had to demand it. Sucessfully dealt with the anxiety but I also developed an ulcer and anemia, the ulcer was diagnosed as a figment of my imagination and the animia as a symptom of depression.

    Was left in howling pain for five years having to half starve myself as a means of pain control.

    It got properly diagnosed and treated 3 months ago.

    Affects of not recieving proper treatment have been pretty devestating with regard to quality of life for the last five years for both myself and my family.

    Ive also not been able to work and was unable to finish post grad. so it is also going to have an effect on my future

    Worst of it is these conditions were simple things to treat.

    Not just a case of funding but also one of basic education for G.P’s.

  5. Having lived with (suffered from), at times severe, mental illness, including clinical depression, most of my life I have a great deal of sympathy for this appeal even though I am fortunate to live in a country that offers good treatment for mental complaints; treatment that I have with great benefit enjoyed since I finally decided to seek help.

    However even here it is unfortunately a truism that mental health issues are publicly regarded in a different light to bodily ones. It is perfectly all right in public to talk about the fact that one suffers from diabetes due to an insulin deficiency but not to say that one suffers from clinical depression because of a serotonin deficiency. I talk openly about my mental health issue for exactly this reason to try and convince others to take a more open attitude and thereby possibly to help friends or relatives who are in need.

  6. Ribozyme Ribozyme

    You too suffer from depression? Asperger and depression do seem to go together a lot. It isn’t only the difficulty to fit in socially, which by itself is bad enough, but the feeling of always strugling uphill while trying to make people see things that for one are pretty obvious but not to most neurotypicals, which aren’t so cerebral. One fails miserably most of the time.

    I’ve been depressive since the start of adulthood and have been on and off antidepressives for more than 20 years. Last year I had a bout of depression that made me phisically ill. I started taking Paxil (I had previously take Imipramine and then Prozac) and it worked like magic, far better than Prozac ever had. One usually has to try several SSRIs to find out which one works best for oneself, which is different for every person. I don’t intend to stop taking Paxil in the future, as I did with Prozac, I don’t want to risk another bout like the last one. By the way, these therapies were prescribed by private physicians, as Mexican socialized medicine is rather defficient in that respect.

    I’ve read that cognitive therapy is also very good for depression, but in Mexico it’s rather difficult to find a psychologist or psychiatrist that uses it, as most have been educated in the idea that Freud is the last word in psychoanalisis, at least in my experience. Talk about being backward!

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