Professor Patrick McGorry can’t understand why Australians tolerate inadequate mental health services.
The 2010 Australian of the Year and mental health advocate says more support and more funds desperately need to be pumped into the sector.
“State mental health services have been completely unprotected and they have just deteriorated and staff are demoralised,” Professor McGorry said.
“(The former Liberal state government) decimated mental health services in Victoria.
“Now we need more decisive leadership.”
Professor McGorry, who will be the guest speaker at the MENtal Brekky at St Patrick’s College on August 12, said open and honest talk was also needed.
“Mental health issues surface mostly in young people before the age of 25.
“We need much more open public discussion. Men need permission to confide in those close to them.”
He also said tackling the problem needed a multi-pronged approach, with supportive peer networks vital and friends on the look out for mates who were struggling.
“We also need more advocacy. We need to make sure we demand good services.
“Why do we tolerate this? We need to say what our services should look like.”
He said Australia’s rising suicide rate – with 150 estimated suicides in Ballarat alone last year – was a national crisis.
“State and federal governments need to tackle it.
“Suicide still has that primitive, medieval stigma.
“It’s a very threatening thing and people just want to sweep it under the carpet but none of these issues benefit from silence.
“Talking about it is the first step. The next step is to have somewhere for people to go.
“They need something tangible, not just waffly talk.
“We need some practical, visible thing that people can go to.”
Professor McGorry said Headspace centres, which focus on youth mental health, were “incredibly valued” around Australia but said he had been concerned about their future under primary health network control.
However, both Liberal and Labor parties have guaranteed their survival during the election campaign, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promising to build another 10 centres and Opposition leader Bill Shorten committing to keeping them open.
Professor McGorry is the executive director of Orygen, the National Centre of Excellence in Youth Mental Health.
He is also a youth mental health professor at The University of Melbourne and a National Youth Mental Health Foundation (headspace) board director.
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