Mental illness lawyers in Sydney say the Government needs to better educate patients and carers about the importance of seeking help if they are at risk of harming themselves.
Mental illness advocates say many people who seek help from mental health services don’t get it and many are afraid of going to the emergency department.
Mental health advocates say most people with mental health problems do not seek help because of fear.
In fact, most people are afraid to go to the ER for fear of being treated as a criminal.
Mental Health Advocates’ chief executive officer, David McEwan, said many people in Australia’s mental health system didn’t get the message about the need to seek help when they needed it most.
“We’ve seen many people say to us ‘I’ve got my problems and I’ve got to go and see a psychiatrist’,” Mr McEwen said.
“I’m just afraid that I might end up in a psychiatric ward.”
The Mental Health Association of Australia’s director of mental health, Jennifer Taylor, said it was important to educate people about the signs and symptoms of mental illness.
“People often don’t realise that if they think they have a mental illness they’re not,” Ms Taylor said.
Mental Illness Advocates is calling on the Government to change its approach to the provision of mental healthcare services.
“Mental health services should be provided at a level that supports people to manage their health effectively and appropriately, rather than relying on an endless stream of interventions to help them to live a normal life,” Ms McEweens said.
‘There is no such thing as a cure’ It’s not just mental health professionals who are concerned about the Government’s approach.
Dr Taylor said the Government should “give patients the opportunity to seek support in the way they want”.
“They don’t have to go through the emergency services, they don’t need to go into the hospital, they just need to come in and have a talk with their doctor and have an assessment and a referral to someone who can help them live a healthy life,” she said.
Dr McEwaens said the problem with the system was people were afraid to seek treatment for mental health issues.
“They think ‘I might get something worse than an acute case of psychosis and end up with some kind of mental disorder’,” he said.
“So what we’re doing is we’re not going to see those people go through an emergency department because we don’t want them to go there and be put in there.”
Ms Taylor also said there needed to be a change in the law to allow for a mental health referral to be made at a GP visit rather than the hospital.
“The current law doesn’t allow for that, and so if we want to change that, we have to get the legislation changed,” she explained.
“And that is something that we are working on and we’re getting it right now.”
Ms Mc Eweens also criticised the Government for not addressing the issue of mental wellness in the same way it addressed the needs of Aboriginal people and children.
“There is a real disconnect there.
I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but we’ve got a very different set of circumstances, and they need to be addressed in a very specific way,” she says.
“It’s not like the Aboriginal people are treated differently than the rest of the population.”