“The time is now”: Psychiatrists call for mental health focus in Federal Budget

05 October 2020

On the eve of the 2020 Federal Budget, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) has called on the government to put mental health planning and spending high on the list of priorities.

With the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic only just beginning to present themselves, it is imperative that the Federal Government make the mental health recovery of the country as important as the economic recovery, explained RANZCP President, Associate Professor John Allan.

‘This year has presented us with extraordinary, and never before experienced, challenges within every aspect of our lives, and we’ve had to learn an entirely new way of living which has had and will have significant mental health impacts on us as a country, community and individual,’ said Associate Professor Allan.

‘Now is the time to start focusing on helping the country begin to rebuild and an opportunity for the government to commit to supporting the mental health sector to cope with the aftermath of the pandemic.

‘We need help. Our mental health system is in great need of funding and resources, and the pandemic showed us just how badly an immediate fix is needed.’

With the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Mental Health report due to be tabled, as well as the release of Vision 2030 by the National Mental Health Commission, the RANZCP has emphasised that the timing couldn’t be more ideal for a real and immediate commitment to mental health.

‘We have been presented with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to critically evaluate and influence definitive reform of the mental health sector,’ explained Associate Professor Allan.

‘The focus should be on ensuring that people living with mental illness have the appropriate access to the range of services that they require to fulfil their potential and improve their quality of life.

‘Earlier this year, in our Pre-Budget submission, we identified a number of solutions and opportunities to improve the mental health of the community through strengthening the psychiatry workforce, significant investment Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health, improving equity of access to services and delivering more evidence-based, co-designed programs for Australians.

‘We also need a firm and long-term commitment to telehealth. The changes that have been made to help during COVID-19 have been welcome but there is much more that needs to be done in this area in terms of reform and targeted investment to future-proof the system.

‘It’s understandable that after the year we have had and the state of the economy that not everything will be possible right away, but we strongly urge the government not to ignore the needs of the mental health sector.

‘We cannot emphasise enough the importance for the government to begin thinking long-term about the strategies needed to address these issues – this will be vital in addressing the mental health aftereffects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘Mental health should be and remain an ongoing priority for the Federal Government – not only in the immediate future, following the recovery from the pandemic – but well into the future.

‘There is an opportunity for us to make substantial improvements and build a more efficient and accessible mental health system, and now is the time to start laying those foundations.’

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 (0)3 9640 0646 or +61 437 315 911, or email media@ranzcp.org.