Mentally ill still neglected

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Australian psychologists strongly support Victorian Premier Steve Bracks’ warning that the mentally ill are still at strong risk of receiving inadequate assistance, despite the changes flowing from the last COAG meeting.

“Mentally ill Australians will have much greater access to clinical psychologists in private practice after the foreshadowed changes to Medicare take effect on 1 November,” said Amanda Gordon, President of the Australian Psychological Society (APS). “But that still leaves a major shortfall in access to public sector psychologists throughout Australia, not only in Victoria.”

“Australia has both public and private health services and requires both to meet the health needs, including mental health needs, of the community. The majority of public sector psychologists are employed by the states and territories and those governments have systematically neglected their psychological services.”

“Anyone who has tried to get an appointment with a public sector psychologist, no matter how urgent their need, can tell you how sparse state psychological services are. Public services have adopted a policy of believing that effective psychotherapy can be delivered by any health professional, regardless of how little relevant training they have had.”

“Depression is recognised as one of our most serious and growing mental health problems, with an associated high risk of suicide. The research showing that Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is as effective for treating depression as antidepressant drugs involved 10 to 20 one-hour consultations with a specialist-trained cognitive behavioural therapist, usually a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist. It is dangerously misleading to suggest any other health professional, with only brief training, can deliver CBT either effectively or safely.”

“It is hoped that the Commonwealth and state governments will use this Friday’s COAG meeting to ensure that the community has access to qualified and experienced psychologists in both the public and private sector,” said Gordon. “And by implementing initiatives such as proper salaries and career structures professional recognition for psychologists will be supported.”

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APS Director of Communications, Dr Bob Montgomery is available for interview.

For more information contact:

Elaine Grant
Communications Manager
Australian Psychological Society
03 8662 3363