Rann Government Neglect of Rural Mental Health Surfaces as Drought Hits Communities Hard

22 Oct 2006 archivemedia

The Rann Government must step up and admit that it has neglected rural areas by not providing adequate mental health services in the latest State Budget, Shadow Minister for Mental Health Michelle Lensink said today

Ms Lensink said today Mental Health Commissioner Monsignor Cappo publicly expressed concerns over the mental health of farmers affected by the drought but not surprisingly did not criticise the Rann Government for not providing any services in rural areas in this year’s budget.

“The only initiative funded by the State Government for suicide prevention in rural areas is a $680,000 program for Indigenous Australian men,” Ms Lensink said.

“If Monsignor Cappo was so concerned about the mental health of regional South Australians, why hasn’t he pushed Premier Rann for an increase in programs in rural areas?

“Currently we have a two-class mental health system which is based on where you live in South Australia. This situation has now reached crisis point in regional areas.

“Communities in rural areas tend to face greater hardship due to environmental and economical factors such as the drought, and it is a disgrace that these communities cannot access the same level of services as those in metropolitan Adelaide.

“This week federal Labor Health Spokeswoman Julia Gillard urged the federal government to spend more on mental health services and programs in rural areas. It seems that finally Labor politicians are recognising the extra stress the drought causes in communities.

“Ms Gillard should really have urged her state colleagues to honour their promise to meet COAG federal funding of $144 million that was to be spent on new services with a focus on community projects.

“This could have resulted in regional and rural communities actually receiving services needed to prevent the predicted crisis facing those communities affected by the drought.

“The Rann Government is arrogant to believe that it is not its responsibility or fault that there are no mental health programs available in rural areas. It is becoming a recurring theme that the government is city-centric and ignores rural communities.

“It is time to drop the ego and help the people out who need it the most right now – those facing zero income and deficits because of the drought.”