House debates

Thursday, 16 February 2012


Mental Health

4:46 pm

Photo of Laura SmythLaura Smyth (La Trobe, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am pleased this evening to be able to provide some details about this government's hit to mental health as it relates to my electorate. We have heard from members on this side the virtues of the government's investment in support for early intervention in mental health. I as a local member am indeed aware of the benefit of that investment and expect that investment to assist young people in particular in my electorate through the establishment of a new headspace unit within the region.

We all feel the effects of mental illness in the communities that surround us. I am sure that as individual MPs we are very aware of the impact of mental illness upon families within our electorates. I am familiar with many stories of young people who face chronic mental health problems and they stand to benefit from services such as the headspace unit, which will be developed in the Dandenong-Casey-Cardinia region. That covers part of my electorate and spans some of the neighbouring electorates.

In terms of the statistics on mental health, we know that mental health issues often reveal themselves very early in life. We know that some 64 per cent of people who suffer from depression and anxiety do so by the age of 21. That is an extraordinary figure and it is one that this government, through a very significant financial commitment, is determined to try to respond to. We know that one in 40 people will experience severe mental illness, with a third of those experiencing it as a chronic condition throughout their lives.

I was very pleased to have been part of the announcement last year of a new headspace unit, which will be established in my region for the assistance of those who are aged between 12 and 25 who live in the Greater Dandenong, Casey and Cardinia area. The area that it will cover has in fact one of the largest youth populations in Australia, a youth population of around 125,000. It is very important for facilities such as this to be available.

I know that there are a great many people and a great many organisations within my electorate that are working very hard to implement the headspace unit and to get it up and running within a relatively short space of time. I would like to acknowledge the efforts of the Youth Support and Advocacy Service, the Eastern Region Mental Health Association and the Dandenong-Casey GP Association.

In the context of updating on a headspace unit and activities aimed at early intervention for those struggling with mental health problems in my region, it is fitting to acknowledge the life's endeavours of one particular man. He was president of the Eastern Region Mental Health Association. I attended his funeral relatively recently. He made an extraordinary contribution to the activities of ERMHA within the eastern region of Melbourne. Many members of my electorate have been beneficiaries of his advocacy and his relentless push for financial assistance for people with mental illness. ERMHA recorded that Harry Karslake became president of ERMHA in 1986 and that at that stage the association 'shifted gear'. ERMHA said:

Harry attracted public funds to fit out and staff group homes because the correlation between homelessness and mental illness was so strong.

It is appropriate today to acknowledge, as we reflect on a very significant commitment that this government has made right across Australia and in my electorate, the significant efforts that are going into supporting young people with mental illness. We should reflect on the fact that those efforts are only possible by virtue of the work done by activists like Harry Karslake and organisations such as ERMHA, which operate with perhaps less fanfare than they deserve.