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    If we’re going to get people who have mental health issues back into the workforce (and most of us who’ve been employed before are really keen to get back to it), we need to start training CentreLink not to send away unemployed females who don’t qualify for a benefit. I haven’t even been able to talk to anyone- just a quick dismissal on the phone, several times over the past 12 years (when I’ve had the occasional part-time job). They say “Use your professional networks- we can’t help people like you. We don’t have the sorts of jobs you’re looking for”. Slam. How can we have networks when we’ve been out of work for months or years? Huh? Will we just happen to bump into an employer who won’t run a mile as soon as we mention mental health issues? Better to keep it to yourself when there’s no one to back you up. Also, no one seems to realise how soul-destroying it is for females who have always been financially independent, to suddenly tie their fate to someone else because there are no supports in the community for them to fall back on. It makes mental health issues worse. Someone has to have a good think. Get back to me when there’s some news.

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    We seem to have entered an Orwellian twilight zone-The big ticket mental health item in the upcoming budget is not more dollars to provide and expand mental health services but cuts to welfare dependancy by people with mental health issues.

    I have had similar experiences to the previous commentator. I have been on and off social insecurity for the last thirty years. I have completed 2 degrees and 2 diplomas in that time, at my expense with a HECS debt. I have never received any support to get into a traineeship, or even help to identify a skills shortage. When i went to the careers office at the uni where i am a part-time student they referred me to the counselling services because they had to prioritise and so youth came before ” women returning to the workforce” to use their expression. This career women treated me like something that the cat had brought in. I am still studying at my own expense and the job network provider is trying to get me off their books because there is no funding incentive to have ‘middle aged overeducated women’ to use their phrase hanging around. For some reason they get more money if they get a man or a young person into a job.

    I have been following the mental health debate and can make two observations. One is that Mental health has become a hot issue not because of changing community atttiudes- they are getting worse not better- but because of powerful occupational interests closely associated with the AMA. Namely Allied health professionals like OT’S, psychologists and social workers.Their interest is career pathway to hike up their salaries and benefits, namely pensions up as close to doctors as they can. When people talk about the under-funded mental health system on silly talkfests like the Drum thats what they mean. I worked for a health commission many years ago and was astounded then at the generous contribution from the taxpayer money to individual doctors and psychiatrist who were by no means poorly paid.
    There are plenty of mature people, like nurses for example who could and should be skilled up as Psych nurses or community mental health workers. But no, the government wants to unleash 22 years old with no life experience on people with a history of trauma and precarious day to day existence. I know that i have alluded to a number of different issues here but that is the case with anything to do with the public health system, mental heath in particular. We need to demand a comprehensive health service like the scandinavian one which delivers good health outcomes unlike the profit based one we have where some people actually benefit from other peoples ill-health.

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    ” powerful occupational interests closely associated with the AMA. Namely Allied health professionals like OT’S, psychologists and social workers.Their interest is career pathway to hike up their salaries and benefits” Totally agree with you there. I actually think we (the consumers) would be better off if we dismantled the entire mental health services edifice social workers, administrators, advisors – the lot, and took to neighbourhood houses and existing educational institutions for our services. I talk about all that here:

    As far as jobs go the most important thing to do right now is for each hospital mental health team to have a jobs specialist embedded whose sole purpose is to save people’s jobs as they come onto a mental health ward.

    When you enter these wards no one ever asks you if you have a job and what needed to be done to save it. I have seen people who were CEOs and GPs wandering around in the mental health system for years, because no-one tried to save their job when they were first on the ward.

    Getting back to work after 3-6 months off, with no help or assistance, is pretty near impossible. Concentrate on making sure no new arrivals to the mental health system lose their jobs in the first place. Dealing with long-term unemployed people with mental health issues is an entirely different matter and a whole other story.


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