Urgent extra resources needed for mental health crisis say psychiatrists

22 April 2021

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) Queensland Branch has called on the Queensland Government for more funding for mental health services to meet increased demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chair of the RANZCP Queensland Branch, Professor Brett Emmerson AM explained that the already overburdened mental health system is struggling to meet the increased demand for help due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

‘The pandemic has hit the mental health system hard; we are seeing a 20–30% increase in mental health presentations in our public services and it’s not going to slow down any time soon’, said Professor Emmerson.

‘According to the National Mental Health Planning Framework, mental health services in Queensland are understaffed by at least 35–40% and this was prior to the surge created by the pandemic.

‘Add onto that, the severe staffing shortfall we are experiencing, and you’ve got a debilitatingly under-resourced sector straining to provide services to our communities.

‘The story isn’t much better in the private sector with a wait of about nine months to see most psychiatrists and psychologists.'

Whilst some measures have been put in place to assist people to receive the mental health support they need, the RANZCP Queensland Branch believe that much more needs to be done.

‘The Queensland Government announced an additional $46 million for mental health services, which has helped in the short term but the funding is due to expire in June 2022 and as far as we are concerned, that simply isn’t long term enough to deal with the pandemic fallout’, explained Professor Emmerson.

‘Things might be going back to normal in regard to everyday life, and people are getting vaccinated, but the mental health effects of the pandemic are going to continue to present themselves long after this.

‘We need a more comprehensive and sustainable mental health plan for the state if we are going to get through this unscathed.

‘The mental health system remains significantly underfunded and there doesn’t seem to be an appetite for commitment from the Government to sufficiently resource services to allow our community to recover. 

‘To simply achieve the National Mental Health Planning Framework’s staffing levels guideline, we would need to see a 5 per cent growth, per year, for the next five years in community mental health services, and we call on the Queensland Government to commit to this growth target.

‘There’s no way to sugar coat it, we are overwhelmed with cases and staffing levels are so inadequate that lives are being placed at risk.'

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