Dr Lesley Russell, of the Menzies Centre for Health Policy, writes:
The Department of Health and Ageing website lists 129 mental health publications, of which 28 are described as ‘historical’ and 4 have been rescinded. Of these 129 publications, 11 have been published during the tenure of the Rudd Government, 89 were published between 2007 and 2000, and 29 were published before 2000.
It’s instructive to look at the pre-2000 publications, 20 of which are listed as ‘current’. The oldest of these, Mental health statement of rights and responsibilities, published in 1991, has never been updated. Neither has the 1995 publication Ways forward: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health policy. In this time frame there were several publications around the important issue of consumer outcomes, but these have not been repeated in the years since. Neither has the 1997 report Research and consultation among young people on mental health issues, now listed as ‘historical’.
It is also disconcerting to see that there have been no revisions or updates of the 2002 reports on Research priorities in mental health and e-Mental health in Australia.
While acknowledging that mental health policies must move forward, and assuming that mental health services and issues are now different than they were in the 20th century (a statement made with fingers crossed), it does seem that these older reports encompass some issues that will always be important and in need of responses and strategies appropriate to the times.
There is much work to be done in tackling the mental health reform agenda, and there are concerns that this important area of health and wellbeing is not currently getting the attention it deserves. Outmoded priorities, strategies, performance indicators and evaluation tools certainly don’t help drive this effort forward.
I think it is commonly accepted that people with mental health problems, like many other marginalised groups, will never have the same attention paid to them as people with a physical illness – even thought the aetiology of the illness may well be physical. Culturally they are just not treated in the same manner by society, regardless of how inappropriate this may be to those more educated. I guess this means that the government is not more educated.