Monday, February 14, 2011

Youth depression requires urgent action


Tuesday February 15, 2011
- Socialist Alliance Candidate for Keira, Paola Harvey, has called for immediate action by the NSW government to address the extremely high rates of depression suffered by young people across the Illawarra. She has stated that the government must increase funding to hospitals to enhance mental health emergency care to help deal with the impacts of the crisis.

'We need to recognise depression as a social problem, not just an individual problem', said Harvey.

'It impacts on all aspects of society so the response has to been a societal one. 13% of the total disease burden in Australia in 2003 was related to mental health problems and illnesses, while for young people it was 50%. Beyond the health system, the rate of mental illness also harms people's ability to get employment, housing and be a part of community life. While it is a good thing for parents and friends to have talks with anyone they think is suffering from depression, it is obvious that talks alone aren't enough.

'Mental illness also disproportionally affects those already facing disadvantage. We can see the high amount of youth who suffer from depression, but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males, for instance, had a hospitalisation rate for psychological and behavioral disorders 2.1 times higher than non–Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males in 2005. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females it was 1.5 times as high. Refugees who have fled terrible conditions in their own country and face detention when they arrive in Australia also face higher rates of mental illness problems.

Harvey also called for more equitable funding for prevention, promotion and early intervention in addition to treating mental illness.

'In NSW the mental health system is in a terrible state, the closure of large psychiatric institutions over the years has not been followed by a corresponding rise in resources or funding for out-patient or community-based services', said Harvey.

'We need a system based on positive mental health promotion, prevention and early intervention, which is focused on community care and involvement. This obviously requires the NSW government to commit to large funding increases, and more funding must flow to programs designed for early intervention.

'Early detection of mental health problems is vital. It can greatly decrease the rate of hospitalisation for people experiencing mental illness symptoms. It may also increase the chances of a better long-term outcome. Community awareness and understanding of mental health and mental illness is at the heart of a good prevention and treatment plan, but to gain that community awareness, we need a government that is prepared to properly resource and fund mental health programs,' Harvey concluded.

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