Funding for mental health missing in today’s budget, say Territory psychiatrists.

Psychiatrists in the Territory say today’s budget does not go far enough to address the dire mental health outcomes in the community.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Northern Territory Branch Chair Dr David Chapman said too many Territorians are forced to delay or miss out entirely on essential mental health care.

“There is a critical and chronic shortage of psychiatrists and mental health workers in the Territory, where attracting and retaining them is a significant challenge to begin with.

“Additionally, there are longstanding issues with the availability of psychiatric beds and community mental health services in the region, such as the need for a comprehensive, 24-hour community mental health centre, and low acuity mental health beds in regional hospitals.

“Remote and First Nations communities in the Territory have limited to no access to mental health services, resulting in drastically poorer mental health outcomes.  

“They require a skilled workforce, offering culturally competent and accessible care across all levels and at all times.

ABS data shows the Northern Territory is consistently recording the highest number of deaths by suicide in the country.

But the budget delivered today has no funding for the mental health workforce, and no funding for expanding community mental health services in the Territory.

“Community need is rising every year, but mental health funding has remained stagnant.  

“Our emergency departments are fronting patients with severe and complex mental health presentations, day in and day out.

“We know that through early intervention and prevention, we can keep people’s mental illnesses from escalating to crisis levels.”

The NT Branch of the RANZCP has welcomed some funding commitments delivered in today’s budget, including:

  • $107 million for upgrades for Royal Darwin Hospital, including a mental health stabilisation assessment and referral unit, and expansion of the mental health inpatient unit
  • $47 million for maternity services in Territory hospitals
  • $4.5 million to implement the bilateral agreement for mental health
  • $2.8 million to deliver health‑related Early Childhood Development Plan initiatives 

"While funding for mental health remains inadequate, the investment in the social determinants of mental health delivered as part of today’s budget is crucial. 

“For example, more teachers and school resources will enable us to better address mental health needs of young people, and better access to affordable housing will improve mental health outcomes across the Territory. 

Dr Chapman said this funding needs to be accompanied by investment to grow the psychiatry workforce and place them in areas of greatest need.

“There are notable investments in today’s budget for hospital upgrades and health infrastructure that are critical for improving service delivery.

“But without the workforce providing care and treatment, hospitals are just buildings and clinics are just rooms.

“Investing in mental health is common sense – the productivity commission has shown us that good mental health is good for the economy.

“Training more mental health workers is fundamental to improving the wellbeing of communities in the Territory and increasing their chances of living productive and meaningful lives.

The RANZCP is urging the Territory Government to work with the Federal Government to attract, train and retain psychiatrists in the Northern Territory and distribute them evenly across the region.

“Our workforce shortage cannot be solved overnight. We need sustained investment in the system and the people who make the system.

“We want to work with the Lawler Government to sustainably grow the number of psychiatrists in the NT and help meet the needs of our community,” Dr Chapman said.

For all other expert mental health information visit Your Health in Mind, the RANZCP’s consumer health information website.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Dishi Gahlowt on +61 437 315 911 or email  

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments and other groups on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit

In Australia: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or or the Suicide Callback Service on 1300 659 467 or

In New Zealand: If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline NZ on 0800 543 354 or or the Suicide Crisis Helpline on 0508 828 865 or


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