A two-class mental health system, based on where you live is being created in South Australia, Shadow Minister for Mental Health Michelle Lensink said today.
Ms Lensink said mental health services across the state were neglected but the situation was now reaching crisis point in regional South Australia.
Mental health services are under stress across the state but nowhere more so than regional South Australia where the decline in service delivery is creating a two-class system of treatment characterised by lower standards for country people and inconsistent services across metropolitan Adelaide.
“Rural South Australia accounts for up to 85 per cent of this state, the government cannot continue to ignore the pleas from community and industry groups to provide the services needed,” Ms Lensink said.
“According to a government study there is a large gap in services available to regional and rural areas with 80 percent of psychiatrists and 70 percent of psychologists working in inner-urban areas.
“One in five Australians will suffer from a mental illness at some stage in their life. This does not discriminate people in regional areas. In fact, people who live in rural and regional areas face a number of factors which can exacerbate problems with mental illness.
“People in rural areas are often poorer; face higher rates of unemployment and face additional challenges such as isolation and hardship associated with seasonal conditions such as the drought.
“Rates of suicide are consistently higher in rural towns than in metropolitan and regional areas. In communities with a population of less than 5000, the male suicide rate is one and a half times the capital city rate, and the suicide rate of males aged 15-24 is almost double that of their city counterparts*.
“Minister Zollo stated in a media release on February 14, 2006 that: ‘In remote areas, mental health problems are exacerbated by isolation, loneliness and lack of resources and facilities. It’s vital that these special needs are met by local staff who understand these unique circumstances.’
“Seven months later in the Rann Budget the government ignored its own opinion by only offering a specialised service at Glenside – Glenside is not a rural area. This is not helping people in regional South Australian when and where they need it.
“People in rural areas are facing even further hardship due to the drought; they have special circumstances and need services that are accessible.
“Where was that in the budget? It’s just another example of the Rann Government’s city-centric attitudes.
“The theme of Mental Health Week this year is Everyone’s Responsibility. The Rann Government is obviously not listening to their own marketing campaigns. It is Everyone’s Responsibility but it is also the responsibility of the state government to provide funding and services to help combat the problem of mental health in our community.
“If they can shirk responsibility on mental health, what is stopping all those hard working community groups from giving up as well?”