Federal health minister Greg Hunt has put his money where his mouth is when it comes to delivering on his promise to make mental health a “critical part” of his role, says Albury suicide prevention advocate Stuart Baker.
His comments follow Tuesday’s federal budget announcement that $170 million had been allocated for mental health, an investment which was welcomed by peak stakeholder and lobby groups.
Mr Baker, the co-chair of national taskforce Australians for Mental Health, said he was heartened to see mental health a focus of the budget, particularly after Mr Hunt declared his personal interest early in his appointment as health minister.
“It appears Minister Hunt is following through on his early words and our hope is this greater investment will translate to better outcomes for people,” Mr Baker said.
“It’s encouraging to see mental health is well and truly on the government’s radar – it’s not before time.”
Mr Baker and his wife Annette have been tireless in their campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues and break down the stigma of suicide after their beloved daughter and sister Mary took her life at just 15 years of age.
The pair founded the annual Winter Solstice for Survivors of Suicide community event, which is being held again at Albury’s QEII Square on June 21.
On Tuesday, Mental Health Australia CEO Frank Quinlan spoke with Mr Hunt about the provisions for mental health, which included:
- $58m (previously announced) for mental health and suicide prevention support for veterans and their families;
- $11m for suicide prevention, including signage and connection to support services;
- $9m for rural tele-health, particularly for psychological services;
- $15m for mental health research; and
- $80m for psycho-social services in the community.
Mr Hunt said the budget represented a “practical demonstration of real commitment” to mental health reform.
“Our task is now to encourage the states to match the $80m commitment for community-based services,” he said.
Bakers’ powerful butterfly effect
Albury parents Annette and Stuart Baker have joined a national campaign by The Butterfly Foundation to dramatically improve medical support and understanding of patients with eating disorders.
The Bakers have been featured in the foundation’s 2017 MayDays campaign to stress the “desperate need” for increased awareness, health professional training and family support, after losing their daughter Mary to an eating disorder at 15.
Together with two other brave families, these grieving parents are hoping to assist the foundation to bring about change in a system, which currently sees one in five patients with anorexia nervosa die by suicide – the highest rate of any mental illness.
For details go to thebutterflyfoundation.org.au or if you are worried about yourself or someone you care about call 1800 33 4673.