NT psychiatrists call for action now on mental health neglect

28 October 2020

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Northern Territory Branch has called on the NT Government to take a cue from Churchill and ‘action this day’ the rescue of Mental Health Service funding from decades of neglect.   

‘Northern Territorians have been short-changed on investment in mental health services for decades now and this becomes starkly apparent when we compare NT funding with that of other states and territories,’ said RANZCP NT Branch Chair, Dr David Chapman.

‘The NT faces unique geographical and small population challenges in delivering comprehensive mental health care to meet the needs of its community yet has historically had some of the lowest per capita spending on mental health in Australia.

‘Poor mental health contributes to 16.3% of the burden of disease in the NT compared to 7.4% nationally and we only have 17 mental health beds per 100,000 whilst the national average is 28 per 100,000.’

The RANZCP NT Branch calls on the government to immediately increase mental health funding by $100 million per year immediately and provide a ‘catch up’ fund of $300 million to bring facilities and staffing up to standards comparable to the rest of Australia.

‘We know the NT Government was to be given a boost of $700m to health funding by 2024–25 as part of the National Health Reform Agreement 2020–25, but we still do not know how much of that will be going to mental health and when this will happen.

‘There is a severe shortage and maldistribution of psychiatrists for our population which requires an urgent and comprehensive mental health workforce plan for attracting and retaining sufficient numbers of skilled professionals who can be accessed by communities in need.

‘A purpose-designed community mental health facility is needed to improve availability of services and reduce demand on acute inpatient facilities and emergency departments.

‘There is also no child and youth forensic ward despite the NT having the highest rate of children and young people in detention of all states and territories across the country.

‘This is on top of the release of the government’s own commissioned report and recommendations on forensic and disability services last year, which it has promised to progressively implement.

‘In addition to the new investment in mental health, what we really need is an actionable blueprint for the roll-out of these services – top end mental health services are in crisis and these things need to happen now.

The RANZCP Northern Territory Branch looks forward to working with the Minister for Health on some of these key priority areas to establish a concrete road map for mental health investment and reform.

ENQUIRIES: For more information, or to arrange an interview call Andy Newton on +61 (0)3 9640 0646 or +61 437 315 911, or email media@ranzcp.org.

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