Failure to invest in mental health and wellbeing a concern for psychiatrists

13 November 2020

The South Australian Branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has welcomed the $15.1 million allocated in this year’s State Budget to provide increased short-term mental health services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but lamented the failure to invest in a broken mental health system that is woefully underprepared to cope with the surge in demand predicted over the coming years.

Chair of the South Australian Branch, Dr Paul Furst, said that with many people within our community being adversely affected by the pandemic, it is more important now than ever to focus on the mental health and wellbeing of our State.

‘The SA Government’s commitment to improving the state of our mental health system is an encouraging beginning to what will be a long road to recovery for all of us,' said Dr Furst.

‘We are however concerned that the majority of new funding represents relatively minor, short-term measures, especially with COVID and the economic downturn projected to precipitate a longer-term “mental health pandemic”, peaking in late 2021.'

The RANZCP also welcomes the government’s recognition that additional mental health beds are needed in the public health system to reduce access block and patients having to endure long queues in our Emergency Departments.

‘This issue has become a crisis in our health system and has had a significant domino effect on broader hospital services and community mental health services,' added Dr Furst.

‘It is encouraging to see the government step up and begin to address the issue, but it remains concerning that there has been no investment in non-acute beds that facilitate functional recovery and wellbeing for consumers and increases the capacity of acute units to respond to crisis and emergency demand.

‘The ongoing revival of the Repat Health Precinct will help fill gaps in our support for older people and is a good start, however we will need to keep evaluating our future needs in what is a growing population in this State.

‘Overall, we remain concerned that our State’s investment in mental health continues to be largely reactive and in many ways driven by responding to crises and risk management, rather than long-term investment focused on building a responsive and sustainable mental health system.’

'As Professor Patrick McGorry noted in a recent editorial for the Medical Journal of Australia, "The capacity of the mental health system, even before COVID‐19, had been inadequate for responding to the demand" and the current crisis only highlights the need to dramatically reform and strengthen the current system.'

The RANZCP South Australian Branch looks forward to working with all stakeholders to help reshape our mental health system to create a long-term sustainable, efficient and accessible mental health system.

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 Sarah Carr on +61 437 315 911, or email