Saturday, December 25, 2010

Australian government formulates new plan to better aid those with mental illnesses

From ABC News in Australia:

The Federal Government has asked leading experts to help guide a new effort to tackle some of Australia's toughest mental health problems.

The newly formed Mental Health Advisory Group includes the Australian of the Year Patrick McGorry (pictured), whose speciality is helping mentally ill young people.

The Commonwealth's first Minister for Mental Health, Mark Butler, says expertise is needed to develop lasting and cost-effective reforms.

"A particular cohort of the population that I want this group to focus on is the group that has severe and persistent mental illness and have had often for some decades," he said.

"They might be middle-aged adults now. And often [they] are homeless or have very unstable periodic, episodic accommodation and work."

Earlier this month Professor McGorry, who is not afraid to speak his mind, said Australia's detention centres were not good for the mental health of detainees.

Mr Butler says Professor McGorry and the other panel members would not be expected to pull any punches.

"We've asked them onto this group to do some pretty intensive work, but we recognise they hold important positions in the community and those positions won't in any way be compromised," he said.

"They'll be able to talk frankly and fearlessly, as they always do."

Another member of the mental health panel is Monsignor David Cappo, vice chairman of the Australian Social Inclusion Board.

He says he is very optimistic something can be done.

"There is a groundswell throughout Australia for action on mental health issues," he said.

"The system as we have now is not joined up. In other words, the mental health system is very, very badly connected - if connected at all - to issues such as training, education, employment."

The mental health panel is due to have its first meeting early next year.