The authorities claim to care about health, but do they? What about mental health? Do they really care?
I am sitting here in my bedroom, writing this piece on the 21st of January 2017 not as a Melbournian, but as a Sydneysider recovering from a medical procedure – nothing major, nothing to complain about, just something I need to suck up and deal with, and as I know from recent events played out in our society, there are a lot of others hurting. Hurting so much that they don’t know what to do, how to feel, think, or even what to say. The grief, shock and the horror of what our society has become. A society that has lost all human decency about their personal actions and the effects they have on innocent people going about their everyday lives. A life that should have been rich, rewarding and joyful of what they could have contributed to make our society a better place to live. Unfortunately, they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Their lives were cut short by a senseless individual who not only had a violent history, but also a history of mental health issues.
I am talking about the events that happened on a normal workday at one of the busiest times, in the most densely populated area of Melbourne, the CBD. The events that unfolded, were horrific, inconceivable, and in my opinion preventable. I am not blaming the police they do a fantastic job under the toughest of tough of circumstances. I’m talking about the system, the political system we as citizens have allowed our politicians to create. A system that has blindly ignored what is best for Australians and our future, and has created a system that is so broken and narrow-minded, one which only looks at dollars signs and how to save a buck in their own political department. Unfortunately the few bucks that the government tried to save has eventually cost Australians more money, in this case hundreds of thousands of dollars more and was it worth it?
We as Australian’s – some Australians might not believe me, but we have a major mental health crisis on our doorstep, that is out of control. The crime wave in Melbourne is out of control, substance abuse (addiction) is a political issue, especially when fifty percent of the prisoners in our jails suffer from mental health issues. According to unpublished data in a Victorian study: “Among prisoners detained in police cells, 25% had a psychiatric history, 70% had some sort of substance abuse or dependence, and 53% were registered on the Victorian public health mental database. Yes Dimitrious “Jimmy” Gargasoulas has a history of mental health issues, as well as violence, and substance abuse but yet he was allowed to roam free on our streets!
Of those with mental health problems, only 50% receive professional help, as reports state that help was too expensive or they didn’t know how to access help. Of the mental health issues reported, anxiety disorders were most common – 14.4%, followed by affective disorders – 6.2% (of which depression is 4.1%), and substance use disorders – 5.1% (of which 4.3% is alcohol related).
So where does the Government fit into all this? Well, the facts are dismal. Mental health only receives about 5% of federal funding from the health budget. In 2014 the total health care budget was roughly $155 billion dollars.
Approximately only $8 billion was spent on mental health – only 3 % of the research budget. Pretty bad form considering that the human brain is the second largest internal organ in the human body, and the most complex. Yet it contributes to a third of major diseases, which includes but is not limited to heart disease, obesity, and strokes. According to the Royal Australian New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, mental health should receive at least $20 million. That is not all, as you can see, data shows most OECD countries spend between 12 and 16% of their health budget on mental health services. World Health Organisation states that about 14% of what gets dealt with by the health system is caused by mental illness.
As a society, we cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the carnage and loss of human life due to mental health issues, which can be treated and in most cases, prevented. So how much loss of life will the Australian public accept, or how many more criminals is our jurisdictional system going to let off due to mental health issues without the professional support and funding that they need? How many more? How many more rapists are on bail and roaming the streets with mental health issues, ready to strike again at the next innocent victim? How many more? How many more domestic violence victims are going to die this year alone, due to predators with substance abuse and mental health issues? What does it take for both state and federal governments to realise that this is just not good enough. We are seeing, time and time again, the same problems and issues playing out through the courts, different crimes, different victims, different predators, but there is always a common dominator, which is – mental health. The Australian public has had a gut full, and it’s got to stop. We need to approach this issue from the inside out, not the outside in. We need the resources now, before we have another Dimitrious “Jimmy” Gargasoulas on our hands, and before more innocent lives are lost.