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Gladys Berejiklian MP
Michael Daley MP
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Mental Health Ignored in NSW Election Campaign

The crucial issue of mental health has not received the attention it deserves at this NSW election campaign. I subsequently write to strongly urge you to make mental health a priority at the upcoming New South Wales election on behalf of the thousands of our state’s residents who suffer mental illness every year, many of whom reside in your electorate.

The state of mental health in NSW has now reached crisis status. The suicide toll in NSW is now well over 800 per year, a 42% rise in the past decade, with 90% of those lost having experienced a mental illness.[1] Comparatively, the proportion of some physical illnesses such as the national cancer death rate has reduced by 24% over the past 30 years.[2] This shows that with the same political will, we can together achieve a significant reduction in the rate of suicide in NSW.

NSW residents with mental illness also have much poorer physical health outcomes and a 14-year life expectancy gap between their neighbours without a mental disorder.[3] Furthermore, one-third of avoidable deaths result from co-existing mental and physical illness because people living with severe mental illness often endure poorer physical health.[4]

Over a sixth (15.1%) of NSW adults are psychologically distressed, up from a recent low of 9.8% in 2013.[5] There is widespread stigma across metropolitan and regional areas. Residents of NSW with a mental condition report experiencing discrimination or unfair treatment at 1.6 times the rate of those without a mental condition.[6] NSW residents with mental illness report lower rates of community participation, volunteer work, political participation and educational attainment.[7] And finally, adults in NSW with poor mental health average life satisfaction scores of 6.5 out of 10, compared to a higher score of 8 among those with moderate to good mental health.[8]

Despite these disturbing statistics, the NSW Government is falling behind the rest of the nation when it comes to prioritising mental health spending. In 2015-16, NSW spent only 41.3% of its recurrent mental health budget on community-based mental health services – where we believe spending is most effective. The rest of Australia averaged 59.1%. The ACT (73.3%), Tasmania (68.5%) and Victoria (65.5%) spent much more.

This must change. For too long, mental health and psychiatric care has been grossly underfunded when compared to physical health, despite the enormous economic and emotional cost exacted on NSW residents – as proven by the statistics above.

Funding commitments, when they do occur, focus on hospital networks at the expense of critical mental health investment where they are needed most and would have the greatest impact – in the community.

OUR ASK: Your support for Community Mental Health Hubs

In light of these shocking facts, I am writing to call on you to address this statewide emergency by supporting Australians for Mental Health’s vision for a national network of Community Mental Health Hubs.

At their core, Community Mental Health Hubs will provide access to quality mental health support where and when NSW residents need it.

This critical reform is now needed as a GP visit and a referral for 10 sessions with a psychologist doesn’t cut it for people with serious or emerging mental health issues. And the awful reality is that when people are taken to hospital in an ambulance, they are often dismissed without any kind of treatment plan.

To alleviate this problem, I urge you to support the establishment of Community Mental Health hubs in NSW that provide walk-in assessment, referral and services for people experiencing mental health issues

These Hubs would offer:

  • Service navigation support.
  • 24/7 assertive outreach and ambulatory care.
  • Specialist psychiatric care.
  • Consulting rooms for visiting specialists.
  • Psychology services and relevant mental health support programs.
  • Facilities for GPs and allied health professionals.
  • Facilities for social and community support services (housing, domestic violence, community policing)
  • Online and telephone hotline services (triage, client profiles telehealth, telepsychiatry, online interventions)
  • Drug and alcohol counselling.
  • Vocational support.


You can support this idea by committing state funding to a pilot program that would establish a small number of Community Mental Health hubs in growth corridors across NSW by the year 2020. AFMH is currently working with the Federal government and opposition to match any investment NSW makes in this critical reform.

This innovative idea is an important part of fixing the broken mental health system in NSW that is failing those with mental illnesses and at risk of suicide.

I hope you will join Australians for Mental Health as we fight on behalf of thousands of NSW residents touched by mental illness as well as their families, friends and carers. We are a not for profit organisation that seeks to make mental health a national political priority so that we can together achieve once in a generation change to how we support four million Australians and their families who have been touched by mental illness.

The time for your leadership and government action is now.

[1] ABS, ‘3303.0 - Causes of Death, Australia’ 2017; National Mental Health Commission, A Contributing Life: the 2012 National Report Card on Mental Health and Suicide Prevention; Cavanagh et al,’ Psychological autopsy studies of suicide: a systematic review’, Psychological Medicine (33), 395-405.

[2] AIHW, ‘Australia’s Health 2018’, http://www.aihw.gov.au/australias-health/

[3] Lawrence, et al, ‘The gap in life expectancy from preventable physical illness in psychiatric patients in Western Australia: retrospective analysis of population based registers’ BMJ 2013;346:f2539

[4] National Mental Health Commission, Equally Well Consensus Statement, November 2014.

[5] NSW Population Health Survey, HealthStats NSW, NSW Ministry of Health, 2017.

[6] ABS, ‘4159.0 - General Social Survey, Australia’, 2014.

[7] ABS, ‘4159.0 - General Social Survey, Australia’, 2014.

[8] HILDA Survey, Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, 2016.