House debates

Wednesday, 24 October 2018


Longman Electorate: Mental Health

7:48 pm

Photo of Susan LambSusan Lamb (Longman, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I think I've made it pretty clear by now just how important my community is to me. I'm pretty lucky to live in such a beautiful part of the world and in a community with wonderful people. In my role, I've been fortunate enough to personally get to know so many of these wonderful people. I'm always proud to hear of their achievements. There are many really important people who have made some great achievements in my community, but I also get to hear about their struggles. Many people in my community have been let down by this government. They've been let down time and time again when it comes to their schools, their cost of living and their health.

People in my community are hurting. That's the reality. They need a government that will stand up for them. They need a government that will fight for them. They need a government that actually cares. What makes my community so special is that it's made up of real people. They are real people who want a fair go and who just want to get by. But when the cost of living skyrockets under this government and yet the median income has remained at just $580 a week, it can feel almost unachievable. Many of these people are vulnerable; many of them need our support.

There's a huge mental health issue in this country and in my community. From 2015 to 2016, the people in my community spent nearly 27,000 days in hospital beds due to mental health. That's about 73 years, collectively. These are people who were able to get support too. Tragically, from 2011 to 2016, 124 people in my community took their lives. That is 124 people too many. It's pretty clear that there's a big problem in our society. It's a huge problem, and we must work together to prevent and to reduce the impact of mental ill health and suicide.

I've heard from a constituent, a young woman living with her own mental health issues. She's strong, she's brave, but she still needs our support. She told me how she looked for support through the public mental health system. She'd been struggling for a while and, while she knew she needed help from a professional, she told me how it wasn't easy to find the strength to walk in and seek help. Somehow, sometimes, it's hard enough to just get out of bed. But what she said was the hardest part was hearing how long it would be before her next appointment. Having waited six weeks for her initial consultation, hearing that it would be nearly four months for her next appointment made her feel helpless. It made her feel alone. Right when she needed help, right when she was asking for it, she was made to feel like she didn't matter. No-one—no-one at all—should be made to feel like this, especially not someone who's already in a vulnerable state. She told me how she waited for some time—weeks, months even—but, after a while, she knew she could not wait any longer, so she looked to the private system. On a modest income, hearing that a brief consultation would cost her nearly $500 out of pocket—well, it almost put support out of reach. I mentioned before that the median income of a person living in Longman is $580 a week. I ask: how can someone living on that sort of income possibly afford a $500 consultation?

So I call on the Morrison government to stand up for these people. In government, Labor increased funding for mental health by 357 per cent, up to $2.4 billion. At the 2016 election, Labor had a strong mental health policy with a strong focus on suicide prevention. It included adopting the National Mental Health Commission's recommendation to reduce suicide by 50 per cent over 10 years. Today I'm standing here encouraging—no, nearly pleading—with this government to stand beside Labor and do the same thing. Last year, 128 people died by suicide—a nine per cent increase on the previous year. Clearly, there is a crisis in this nation. Clearly, we need to put aside party politics and address this issue. Together, we can support these vulnerable people when they need us. Together, we can make this change.