Mental health action falling short


Photo by Brooke Couper

Support services are in short supply.

Brooke Couper, Reporter

One in five Australians aged 16 to 85 will be affected by mental illness each year.

The WA Government’s Mental Health Commission aims to establish systems required to support mental health and to reduce  alcohol and other drug problems. In 2015 it released a ten year plan and in late 2018 it published an update on its progress to date.

The vision behind the  2015 – 2025 Plan is to build a system that prevents and reduces mental health problems, suicide, the impacts of drugs and alcohol and to promote positive mental health.

However, Alison Xamon, Member of the Legislative Council and Greens spokesperson for mental health claims the current government isn’t set to reach the projected objectives. Instead, WA is “falling short of the targets needed to achieve a complete rebalancing of the system.”

One of the guiding principles in the original plan was to turn the system around. It stated that by the end of 2017, in order to prepare for the future, the aim was to “increase the proportion of the Mental Health Commission budget spent on prevention” and “identify opportunities to enhance existing prevention initiatives targeting children, young people, families and the broader community.”

However, the 2018 plan update indicates community support and prevention services are sitting at just over half of their projected targets.

Xamon said: “We cannot afford to continue on as we have been doing.  If current services levels are maintained, by 2025 we will only have 19% of the community support services needed – falling way behind demand.”

Western Australia’s suicide rate was approximately 20% higher than the national average in 2016 and has been consistently higher than the average since 2007.

Following the release of the updated plan, the Western Australian Association for Mental Health (WAAMH) published a pre-budget submission for 2019-2020.

Their proposed priority areas are:
– effective mental health and suicide prevention
– accessible and responsive community support
– accommodation with linked community support
– people most in need

Young people and adolescents are a target within the ‘people most in need’ category, as suicide is the most prevalent killer of young Australians, according to Beyond Blue statistics.

The statistics also suggest three in four adult mental health conditions emerge by age 24, with half appearing by the age of 14.

The WAAMH plan states community and mental health services play a crucial role in preventing long term mental health problems, and the Commission’s ten-year plan supported this idea.

Yet Xamon stated the plan update released in late 2018 shows that community support and prevention services are at 55% and 69% of the optimal service mix recommended for 2017.


If you, or a friend, is experiencing mental health problems you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.