Members will have read about the Federal Government’s decision to halve the number of psychology sessions people living in Australia can access.
While the Federal Government is claiming the decision is in response to ensuring that more people living in Australia can access the scheme, there remains questions as to whether this is the right time to be scaling back mental health support.
Numerous studies have been done showing an increase in the number of people seeking mental health support.
We also know there is a growing level of complexity in mental health cases for people seeking support.
It might be true that, according to the government, many of the additional sessions are going to people already ‘in the system’, but there has been no evidence furnished to support that.
It’s for these reasons and more that the Union strongly advocated and won significant increases in psychologist numbers for our public hospitals.
The Union is also having trouble understanding the rationale for the decision.
Reducing the number of subsidised sessions does not necessarily mean more people will be able to access the scheme and it will not reduce the number of people presenting with more complex mental health issues. Greater investment in programs and psychologists will have a much more significant and profound impact on improving the mental health of Australians.
The timing of the announcement to wind back the number of subsidised sessions came during the lead up to Christmas, which is very troubling as this time of year is traditionally a very difficult time of year for people experiencing mental distress and ill-health.
Announcements like this at this time of year may cause some people to defer seeking support, which could lead to further mental distress and ill-health.
We’re concerned the proposed change may result in even more people seeking mental health support from public hospitals and their local community health centre where we know there is severe understaffing, and by consequence huge workloads.
The Union also has concerns that this will have a significant and detrimental impact on thousands of people living in Australia, especially people in regional, rural and remote Australia.