How will the latest federal budget affect the mental health sector?
by Chloe Baird
Posted: May 23, 2021
One in five Australians is living with mental health issues. With this in mind, a key focus of the Australian government’s 2021-22 budget has been on mental health.
Left unchecked, mental health issues can have a severe consequences for a person. That’s why it’s so important to treat mental health issues in their early stages. But to do this, people need access to the right kind of mental health support and treatment.
So, how does the government’s latest budget plan to tackle mental health in Australia?
How does the latest budget help Australia’s mental health sector?
The latest federal budget has allocated a $2.3 billion investment in mental health and suicide prevention. This means that the government’s total spending on mental health between 2021-22 will come to an estimated $6.3 billion.
The government plans to combine the existing funding with this additional funding to focus on five key areas. These areas are:
- Prevention and early intervention
- Suicide prevention
- Supporting the vulnerable
- Workforce and governance.
With this plan in place, the government believes they will be able to provide better services to more Australians across the country, which is based on an accessible, people-focused system.
Accessible mental health support
Seeking help for mental health issues in the 21st century means having access to digital, online support services. Digital services and channels are important for everyone, but even more so to people with limited access to in-person services.
The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care (the Commission) has partnered with service users, carers, clinicians, service providers and industry experts to develop the National Safety and Quality Digital Mental Health (NSQDMH) Standards.
The NSQDMH Standards detail the quality of services people should expect from a digital mental health service. In the digital age, these standards are highly important, and their aim is to improve the quality of digital mental health services in Australia.
Currently, implementing the standards is voluntary. However, all service providers listed on Head to Health will need to show they are meeting – or working towards meeting – the NSQDMH Standards.
But first of all, what is Head to Health?
Head to Health is a government-operated digital gateway to mental health services. The government’s plan is to make Head to Health a world-class digital gateway for all Australians dealing with mental health issues. As part of the 2021-22 budget, $11.6 million will be invested in the transformation of the existing Head to Health gateway into a comprehensive national mental health platform.
According to the Head to Health website, there are more than 500 digital resources available for users. These could be in the form of telehealth services, apps, online programs and online information resources such as websites created by recognised organisations.
How is funding worked out for mental health services?
For the most part, mental health services are funded by state and territory governments as well as the federal government. Only a small portion of mental health services are funded by private health insurance funds.
The most recent mental health spending figures available are from 2018-19, and show that:
- national recurrent expenditure on mental health-related services was estimated to be $10.6 billion – equal to $420 per person
- of the $10.6 billion, state and territory governments funded 60.4%, or $6.4 billion
- the federal government funded 34.1%, or $3.6 billion
- private health insurers and other third-party organisations funded 5.5%, or $584 million
Mental health support and treatment is essential
The most common forms of mental illnesses in Australia are anxiety, depression, and substance use disorder. A 2020 report by the Black Dog Institute found that 54% of people living with mental illness in Australia do not seek treatment.
But why do so many people not seek mental health treatment? There can be a number of reasons for this: they could be in denial, they could be too scared or ashamed to seek help, or they could not understand how to read the warning signs. For others, access can be a huge barrier if they’re unable to travel or there are no services nearby.
Mental health services are essential. This is why proper funding for mental health services is so important. If people are unable to get the help they need, their mental health issues could get worse and have a knock-on effect on other parts of their lives.
Funding for mental health support and treatment
The federal government has responded to the Productivity Commission and the National Suicide Prevention Adviser’s reports by investing $1.4 billion of the planned $2.3 billion in accessible and effective mental health treatment for all Australians who need it.
Part of this portion ($820.1 million) will go towards creating a national network, which includes 57 additional multidisciplinary mental health centres and satellites for adults, youth and children through the Head to Health and headspace programs.
When it comes to vulnerable Australians, $11.1 million of the budget’s $2.3 billion will go towards improving the experience of and outcomes for people with complex mental health needs, including cognitive disability and autism. This will be accomplished through a range of targeted government initiatives. And $79 million will be used to address the tragic and disproportionate impact of suicide and mental illness on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians through key initiatives under a Indigenous-led National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Strategy.
Now, more than ever, government funding for mental health services is key in providing Australians with the support they need.
Working in mental health can be challenging but highly rewarding
Do you want to pursue a career that can help make a difference in people’s lives? If you’re a compassionate people-person who wants to help empower others, you could consider following a career in mental health. Not to mention, Mental Health Workers are one of the most in-demand jobs in Australia right now.
The CHC43315 Certificate IV in Mental Health can help teach you how you can help support vulnerable people living with mental health issues.
Throughout this online course in mental health, you’ll learn how to establish recovery-orientated practices, work in an alcohol and drugs context and collaborate with other care services.
What are you waiting for? Enrol with OC today and discover where your career in mental health could take you.
If you feel like you need to speak to someone about your mental health, you can contact your local GP or get in touch with Lifeline. You can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.